Ten Snow Shoveling Tips to Keep Your Spine Healthy
By: Ben Otis, MSPT, OMT, CSCS, Outpatient Physical Therapy Supervisor for Rehabilitation Services
Snow is flying. Winter is here. It's time for a refresher on how avoid the back strains that so often come with the snow.
- Wear Supportive Footwear: Having good boots on, tied tight, makes it easier to move your feet and shift weight.
- Lift With Your Legs: Bend your knees and avoid bending forward at the back when you lift the shovel.
- Pace Yourself: Be aware of your breathing rate. If you can't carry on a normal conversation while shoveling due to shortness of breath, you are working too fast and too hard.
- Re-Grip As Needed: Slide your hand down the handle closer to the load of snow to gain a mechanical advantage and lift with more ease.
- Low Back Posture: Maintain a neutral spine or a slight lordosis (curve of the back) when pushing snow.
- Perform a Snow Dance: The more you move your feet, the better body mechanics you will maintain, increasing the work load on your leg muscles and lessening the strain on your back.
- No Twisting: Stand and pivot your feet instead of twisting through the trunk to throw the snow.
- Limit the Load: If the snow is wet and heavy, lift only partially full shovels.
- Power Stance: Use a staggered stance at your feet when pushing snow and avoid locking your knees.
- Finishing Exercise: When you are done shoveling, perform a pain-free standing back extension to restore the slight arch in your low back.
Stay safe - and warm - out there, and remember to check on your elderly friends and neighbors during winter weather.