Careful with That Snow Shovel! Preventing Back Injuries over the Winter
McConnell Non-surgical Orthopedics and Sports
Winter is a grand ole' time — the snow angels, the winter
wonderlands…the back pain from shoveling! We see it every
year, and we promise ourselves the same thing: "This year, I
will use proper body mechanics when I lift that 40-pound chunk of
ice with my snow shovel."
Let's face it — shoveling snow is a strenuous activity, no matter
how short your driveway. Snow shoveling can get your heart
rate up almost as much as light jogging. So the question,
really, is this: Is there anything you can do to prevent back
pain when shoveling?
The answer: Yes! A few simple things to watch for
can make all the difference.
First: Use a shovel that has an ergonomic
handle. These shovels have wider
handle grips and curved shafts that make it less likely for people
to bend over when pushing snow, so shoveling becomes an easier task
on the spine.
Second: Use the "Hip Hinge" If you must bend, make sure you bend at the
hips and not at the low back! The Hip Hinge is
the single most important concept to remember when lifting heavy
objects or bending forward, especially if you need to move heavy
blocks of ice from the ground.(See photo to the left.)
Lastly: Take it all in moderation,
and stay hydrated! Fatiguing too quickly makes you a
candidate for low back injury, falls and just about any other
orthopedic injury. Take a break if you need one. Adequate fluid intake is a vital part of all of your bodily
activities, including musculoskeletal function. Make sure to get
plenty of water, and try to avoid excessive caffeinated or
Shoveling snow can also provide a challenge for your heart. The
American Heart Association warns that the risk of shoveling snow
may increase the risk of heart attack in some individuals. To find
out more information read the AHA Shoveling Snow Guidelines.
Finally, if you don't think you can do it, or have cardiac
issues that might limit you, hire somebody to clean your driveway
Should you take all the proper precautions and still
wind up with an injury, the experts at the Spine, Sport and Joint
Center will be able to help you determine the nature of the pain,
and establish a plan to get you back to action as soon as