There’s SNOW time for back pain!

Well Moncton, it’s that time of year again; we just received our first snowfall! Many of us likely dusted off our snow shovels for the first time and got to work getting driveways and walkways clean, but how many of us got a not-so friendly reminder of this activity the next morning in the form of back pain?

I’ve had many clients presenting with general back pain tell me that it began when they were doing one, or a combination, of the following movements: bending forward, twisting, pulling/holding something heavy, and doing it repeatedly. How many of us can say we are guilty of these movements when we’re shoveling? The good news is there are things we can do to prevent injury while shoveling. Here are some tips that I, and my clients, have found useful:

  • Put less snow on the shovel - This can help reduce unnecessary torque on the back muscles and joints. Less weight = Less force required to move that weight.
  • Keep the shovel close to you - When we are holding something, the further it is from our body the harder it is for our muscles to hold it. This goes hand in hand with the point above, and there’s a reason why they are points #1 and #2. It is very easy to reduce forces on our body in this situation if we follow these tips.
  • Take breaks - It’s easy to “get in the groove” with shoveling snow, however this is where we can run into trouble. Taking proactive breaks goes a long way in preventing back pain. It allows our muscles to recover before the next bout of shoveling. It doesn’t have to be long - 30 seconds can be a nice break for your back and allows you to plan how you’re going to tackle the next section of that deck!
  • Shovel from the top down - If there are large banks of snow, thinking you can get the whole thing from the bottom is likely an inefficient way of going about things. Take lighter loads from the top down to prevent you from putting more on the shovel, much like point #1.
  • Move your feet when throwing snow - If your feet are planted one way and you’re throwing snow in the other direction, that’s a lot of twisting force on your back. Moving your feet and pointing them where you are throwing the snow can help to reduce the repetitive twisting and your risk of injury.

Let’s face it: shoveling is no fun in the first place, so don’t make it worse by potentially injuring yourself! Use proper form and follow the tips above for a symptom-free snowy season!

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