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Avoiding Back Pain from Shovelling Snow

Winter is officially upon us. Whether its the skiff of snow overnight, or the 5 foot dump of snow, it all needs to be shovelled. Here are some tips to prevent injury while clearing your driveway or sidewalk.

1. Choose the right shovel:

Shovel should be lightweight, ideally with a plastic blade and composite lightweight shaft. It should also be an appropriate length, ideally at least 48" (if you are taller, it would be a good idea to search for a longer shovel).

2. Warm Up!

Shovelling snow is an athletic activity! Get your blood. pumping by taking a brisk walk, marching in place, doing jumping jacks, anything to get your body warm. Ideally, your warm up would be at least 5 minutes long.

preventing snow shovelling injuries Dr. Elaine Screaton NW Calgary Chiropractor

3. Use Proper Technique

Face the direction you intend on lifting by having your hips and shoulders square to the target. Keep your spine straight, and bend at the hips and knees. Whenever lifting, use your strong leg muscles to do the hard work. It is best to try to simply push snow out of the way, but if you have to lift the shovel once filled with snow, ensure one hand is on the handle, and the other hand is halfway (at least) down the shaft of the shovel for control and ease of lifting. Avoid any twisting motions, instead move your feet to turn to your desired target.

4. Take Breaks & Pace Yourself

Ensure you take breaks every 20-30 minutes of shovelling. Remember, this is an athletic activity! Have a bit of water to re-hydrate. Depending on how much snow has fallen, and how much area you have to shovel, if possible consider breaking the job into 30 minute chunks, to ensure your muscles get sufficient rest.

5. Stretch After & Cool Down Properly

Again, this is an athletic activity! Taking 10-15 minutes once you finish shovelling to stretch the main muscles used should help prevent your muscles from being too sore the following day. Perform the following stretches twice per side, holding 30 seconds each.

Knee to Chest

Knee to Chest Stretch

Figure 4

Figure 4 Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Supine Lumbar Twist

Trapezius Stretch

Shoulder Roll

Dr. Elaine Screaton (DC, BSc) is a NW Calgary Chiropractor currently practicing at Synergea Family Health Centre in Calgary, AB.

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