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Understand the Movements of Shoveling

by | Jan 26, 2022 | Back Pain Buffalo, Lower Back Pain | 0 comments

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Understand the Movements of Shoveling

Shoveling heavy snow can be some of the hardest work that we ask of our lower backs all year long.  With a few tips we can learn to avoid low back pain from snow shoveling! The act of shoveling involves three movements that are considered a “dangerous combination”: bending, lifting and twisting. This combo is often the main movement of those that experience an acute disc injury. Add in weighted resistance, like snow on the end of the shovel, and you’ve now got the perfect trifecta of a low back injury setup.

Warm Up Your Low Back

First things first. Think of shoveling snow as a workout so just like any workout, a warm up is super important. You do NOT want to go out into a cold environment with muscles that are also “cold”. This is a sure-fire trigger to stay contracted and tight which will only lead to muscles that are unwilling to work efficiently. Cue the spasm.

Keep Your Low Back Warm

Secondly, dress appropriately especially if you have prior low back pain. Keeping the back muscles warm while shoveling can help improve circulation which leads to increased mobility of the tissue.

TIP: Using a heat patch, such as Thermacare before, during and after you shovel could be very helpful to keep your muscles warm and prevent lower back pain.

Use the Right Snow Shoveling Techniques

Thirdly, the technique to shoveling is the key. Here’s the breakdown:

Split stance position. Use a weight shifting technique applying force from the back leg to the front leg to generate the pushing force from the legs and not from the lower back.  Remember to bend your knees.  A stiff legged position doesn’t allow forces to be absorbed by your muscles and is one of the major contributors to lower back pain. Failing to do so places the load directly onto your joints and prompting people to compensate by rounding your back leading to lower back injury.  Pushing and lifting smaller amounts of snow in each shovel full can also go a long way to avoiding undue stress upon the lower back.  When you do lift to throw a shovel full of snow remember to embrace your core when rotating before exerting yourself. 

If all else fails, drop the shovel and pay someone to help you.


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