Winter is here and the snow is starting to fall! As beautiful as a fresh white blanket of snow is, it cannot lay perfect forever. Shoveling snow is one of the biggest reasons people struggle with low back pain in the winter. Lets “melt” those pesky bad habits away and shovel our way through winter pain free!
Best time to shovel
Sometimes that snowstorm hits overnight and you must shovel yourself out very early in the morning before you head to work. Hey, you do what you got to do. When this happens however, be sure to stretch and warm up before grabbing the shovel. If you simply roll out of bed and head outside, your muscles are not ready to work. When possible, it is best advised to shovel lightly and frequently. If the storm is here to stay for a duration, shoveling multiple times throughout the storm is recommended as opposed to shoveling several inches at the end. Fresh snow is lighter and easier to manage.
Wear appropriate clothing
Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Dress in several layers of light, comfortable clothing. It is best to wear a moisture wicking material directly over the skin to help control perspiration that will occur because shoveling is a workout! Ensure that your toes, fingers, and ears are fully covered. If it is extremely cold, wear a scarf around your nose and mouth. Wear proper fitting boots with adequate traction to avoid slips and falls. Most boots are not designed for optimal foot support. A great way to ensure your foundation is balanced and supported are through customized orthotics, Foot Levelers. Slide them out of your regular daily shoe and insert them into your boots, easy as that!
Stretch before and after
Performing simple stretches to warm up the legs, low back, core, and shoulders is a great way to avoid injury. A light cardio warm up is advised to elevate the heart rate.
Picking your shovel
This is not a one shovel fits all situation. Be sure you are working with a snow shovel, not a spade garden shovel. A snow shovel will make the job much easier! The shovel should be sturdy but not heavy. An appropriate size shovel is when the handle comes to chest height. A bended shaft handle is shown to cause less stress on the low back as well. If you are pushing snow out of the way, a wide shovel will work best. When lifting and throwing snow, choose a smaller shovel width to avoid shoveling too much snow at once. This may take you a few minutes longer, but hey it is better than being down and out due to back pain.
When shoveling, keep the knees slightly bent and the abdominals slightly contracted. Stand with one leg slightly forward but ensure that your body weight is balanced between both feet. Keep the shovel close to you to avoid overreaching. Bend with your knees, abdominals contracted, and lift with your back straight.
Push instead of lift when possible. If you must lift, be sure you are facing the snow when you shovel it up, pivot the entire body, and release. Do NOT twist or throw it over your shoulder or to the side.
Snow is heavy. Shovel small amounts at once to avoid strain.
Take your time! Snow shoveling is a tough job. Take several breaks. UPMC recommends shoveling for 10 minutes and then taking a several minute break. These breaks are great times to stretch and hydrate! Even though its cold, be sure to drink water!
This time of year is filled with family gatherings, office parties, and many celebrations! Don’t miss out on all the fun because of pain. Call us today, we are eager to help you have a healthy winter. From all of us at Miller Sports & Family Chiropractic, we truly hope you have a joyous and pain free holiday season!