So... here are a few tips to help prevent injury, and more specifically low back injury, with snow shovelling and face those next few snow-shoveling months safely and injury-free!
1. Staying warm and safe!
- Dress appropriately for the weather to keep your muscles warm while you are out shovelling. A cold, tight muscle is more prone to injury than a warm, mobile one.
- Do a small warm-up to increase your circulation and warm up your muscles prior to going outside. Try things like marching on the spot, opening/closing your arms in front of your chest, doing arm circles, and a few gentle standing back bends.
- Wear proper boots/footwear with good traction to help prevent slips and falls.
2. Type of Shovel.
- A proper shovel will help reduce the amount of strain on your low back muscles.
- Shovels with adjustable handle lengths or curved handles will help reduce bending when you are pushing the snow.
- The lighter the shovel blade the better – this means you will have to lift less weight repetitively when you are throwing the snow onto its pile.
3. Body mechanics.
- Do not overload the shovel with snow as you are pushing it – this will force you to bend and put extra stress on the low back. Keeping it lighter may mean making more passes, but it will help to protect the low back.
- Keep the weight as close to the body as you can when you are lifting the shovel full of snow – that means try gripping with your lower hand as close to the shovel blade as you can.
- Bend at the hips and knees rather than the low back when you lift the snow.
- Try not to twist your back as you throw the snow onto the pile –use your hips and core to direct the movement.
4. Use pacing strategies
- Take breaks every 10 to 15 minutes and try doing 10-15 standing back bends to reduce the strain on your low back from being in a forward bent position.
- Take longer rest breaks if needed or try breaking up the snow removal over the course of the day (ie: three 20 minute sessions throughout the day rather than one hour of straight shovelling).
- And lastly, take smaller loads of snow on each pass to reduce the weight that you are pushing and lifting.
I hope everyone has a safe (and short) season of snow shovelling!
~ Jacquie, Physiotherapist