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Shovel This Winter with Less Back Pain!

It’s almost that time of the year, the end of fall and start of really cold weather! Today we’re going to discuss a couple of ways to improve your shovelling form and decrease the risk of experiencing back pain. We’re also going to go over some tips so we’re all ready for the next big snowfall!


A study published by Cornell University’s ergonomic department indicated “…when handling heavy snow with a shovel, the L5-S1 disc has been identified as the weakest link in the body segment chain. The most severe injuries and pain are likely to occur in the back region.” Recognizing the low back is especially susceptible to strain or injury; it would be prudent to review steps to prevent injury.


The Basics
Snow shovelling can be compared to weight lifting, and in some cases, the aerobic aspect of this activity is similar to a workout on a treadmill! To help your body function on demand, consider the following tips:

  • Be heart smart! Don’t eat or smoke before shovelling snow. Avoid caffeinated beverages. These are stimulants and may increase heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict.
  • If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance.
  • Pace yourself during shovelling activities. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. Snow shovelling is strenuous work, and it is important to re-hydrate your body often.
  • Use those abs! Before you lift or push any significant weight be sure you tighten up your mid-section with a little abdominal contraction. This provides stability to your spine and protects the joints and discs of your low back while you lift.


Dress for Success!

  • Consider the weather when choosing outerwear. Dress in layers. Wear clothing that is easy to move in.
  • Wear a hat—a great deal of body heat is lost through the head.
  • Proper boots are essential for keeping feet warm and dry while appropriate soles provide traction. Good boots can help you maintain your balance! The bottom line is that you need traction


Technique. Technique. Technique.

    • Warm muscles work better. So take some time to stretch to prepare your body for activity.
    • Just like with a golf club, hand placement on the shovel handle is very important! Don’t put your hands (grip) close to one another. Create some distance between the hands. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift snow.
    • Think about good posture and maintaining the natural curve of your spine.
    • Don’t throw snow over your shoulder! Go forward with the snow.
    • Fresh snow is lighter in weight—so clear snow as soon as it has fallen.
    • Hips and Knees – not back! Be sure you are bending (squatting) from the hips and knees, not bending forward from your spine. The discs of the low back are injured from forceful forward bending and rotating. Many people shovel this way. It is important to keep the back straight and use those powerful leg muscles!

Focus on your skills

Keep your knees bent and back straight, holding the shovel handle close to your body, no higher than your hips. Push the snow with your shovel rather than lift it.


Dr. Jordan 🙂

Chiropractor and Acupuncture Provider 🙂

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