With the impending threat of one of the largest snowfalls in Orangeville Ontario in the last 5 years, we thought these would be some helpful tips for snow shoveling.
One of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months is snow removal. Using the wrong body mechanics when shoveling snow can put undue stress on the lower back and lead to a painful muscle strain or possibly more serious back injuries, such as a herniated disc or disc degeneration.
The following snow removal tips can help you to avoid low back injuries and pain during these snowy Orangeville winter seasons.
An ergonomic snow shovel can help take some of the effort out of your snow removal chores. A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize painful bending, requiring you to bend your knees only slightly and arch your back very slightly while keeping the shovel blade on the ground. In addition, a small, lightweight, plastic blade helps reduce the amount of weight that you are moving.
Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Do your back a favor by warming up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or any strenuous activity. Get your blood moving with a brisk walk, marching in place, or another full-body activity. Then, stretch your low back and hamstrings (the large muscles in the back of the thigh) with some gentle stretching exercises. Limber up your arms and shoulders with a body hug.
Shoveling small amounts of snow frequently is less strenuous than shoveling a large pile at once. If possible, removing snow over a period of days will lessen the strain on the back and arms. In deep snow, remove a few inches off the top at a time, rather than attempting to shovel the full depth at once. When shoveling, take a break for a minute or two every 10-15 minutes or if you feel overworked at any point. Use this opportunity to stretch your arms, shoulders, and back to keep them warm and flexible.
Whenever possible, push the snow to one side rather than lifting it. When lifting the snow shovel is necessary, make sure to use ergonomic lifting techniques.
When gripping the shovel, keep your hands about 12 inches apart to provide greater stability and minimize the chances of injuring your low back.
Slippery conditions while shoveling can lead to slipping and/or falls and strains that can injure your back. Shoes or boots with good treads will help to minimize injuries from slipping. Spreading sand, rock salt, or kitty litter on your sidewalk or driveway will increase traction and reduce the likelihood of slipping on the ice.
When used correctly, a snow blower can put less stress on your low back than shoveling. Avoid stressing your back by using the power of your legs to push the snow blower while keeping your back straight and knees bent.
These tips can help to make snow removal less of a strain on your low back. Keeping these guidelines in mind during the winter season will lessen the chances of a developing new back problems or worsening your low back pain while shoveling, and hopefully make your winter a healthier and more enjoyable experience.