With winter upon us in New York City, many of us will be tasked with shoveling snow at some point during the season. Please exercise caution, as snow shoveling is one of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter. This is because most people rarely do this kind of physical work on a regular basis. When shoveling snow, it’s important to follow a few common-sense precautions and techniques to prevent injury and low back pain.
To ensure efficiency and safety, there is a proper way to shovel snow. First and foremost, it’s best to use the proper tools. Keep snow as well as injuries at bay by using an ergonomic show shovel. Shovels should have a curved handle and be the proper length to prevent bending of the knees and/or arching of the back. The shovel should be light to ensure the amount of weight you’re moving repetitively is kept to a minimum.
I also recommend moving small amounts in each shovelful. If possible, shoveling in this way, over a slightly longer period of time, will lessen the strain and pressure on the lower back and legs. Even if you are unable to find a shovel that meets the above requirements, you can use ergonomic lifting techniques to improve the probability of safe shoveling:
- Always face the object you intend to lift square on: this will help keep your spine in alignment as you prepare to lift.
- Keep loads light: Lifting an object that is too heavy can lead to muscle and/or lower back strain.
- Bend at the hips, not the low back: Lock your spine when lifting because it will increase strength and lessen your chance of injury.
- Avoid twisting the back: Twisting can cause abnormal stress on the discs of the spine, leading to back pain and problems.
- Do not reach for or toss the snow: Don’t overextend the spine. Take a break for a minute or two if you feel fatigued.
In summary, keeping your spine in a locked, neutral alignment while shoveling snow will alleviate the potential for pain and injury. Also, try to warm up and stretch a little before you bdgin, followed by a good stretch of your lower back when you are finished.
Winter is certainly a beautiful time of year and an opportunity to enjoy skiing, hiking, and other winter sports. These tips will ensure a safe snowy season – keep these guidelines in mind for an enjoyable experience!