avoid back pain from shoveling winter snow

snow shoveller

By David BenEliyahu, DC, DAAPM, DABCSP

The warnings are everywhere—blizzard conditions, high winds, possibly a foot of snow. When the storm settles and it’s time to start clearing out, make sure you take precautions to prevent injury.

Shoveling snow is hard work. If you experience any signs of shortness of breath or chest pain, stop immediately and call 911 or seek medical attention. Don’t smoke, eat or drink caffeinated beverages as they are stimulants and may increase your heart rate even before you begin to shovel.

To protect your back, here are some tips to smart, safe shoveling:

1. If the grounds are icy, spread salt as you go along. Wear good boots with rubber soles and treading.
2. Use the right tool: Select a shovel that is ergonomically designed, has a curved handle, a plastic blade (lighter than metal) and opt for a smaller blade as it will carry less snow and put less strain on your back. Consider a shovel made to push snow rather than lift it.
3. Think about good posture and maintain the natural curves of your spine. Bend at your knees, NOT your waist and hips, and stand with your feet at shoulder width.
4. As you lift the snow, tighten your stomach muscles, and lift with your legs, NOT your back.
5. Avoid twisting and rotating your upper body to dump the snow. Instead, move your entire body so you can dump it in front of you.
6. Never throw the snow over your shoulder.

Always remember to pace yourself and take breaks when you need them. The snow will wait for you.

Dr. David BenEliyahu, Administrative Director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital, has a private chiropractic practice in Selden.