Watch Your Back: 6 Tips for Protecting Yourself While Shoveling Snow
BY HANNAH ROPP
After digging out from a snowstorm, it’s not uncommon to have low back pain. Shoveling snow requires a lot of lifting and twisting, which can cause back injuries or existing back injuries to worsen.
With no end in sight to the winter weather, physiatrist Vikram Arora, DO, with Coordinated Health, part of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), has some tips on protecting your back while shoveling and what to do if you end up with back pain.
Protecting your back
According to Arora, warming up prior to shoveling snow is key to protecting your back. “Snow shoveling is an aerobic exercise, and like any exercise it’s important to warm up properly. Simple low-back stretches prior to shoveling can reduce your risk for serious injury,” he says.
Dress warmly – Dressing appropriately will help improve blood flow.
Proper footwear – Wearing boots with a proper tread will help reduce your risk for falling.
The right shovel – Use a lightweight shovel with a curved shaft so you can push snow.
Good stance – When shoveling, keep your back as straight as possible with your feet hip-width apart and bend with your knees.
Don’t twist – After lifting snow with the shovel, keep the shovel close to your body and pivot your entire body instead of twisting just your torso.
Take breaks – Shoveling snow is hard work! Take breaks every 10-15 minutes to give your back a chance to rest.
Treatment for snow-shoveling injuries
Arora says most back injuries that result from shoveling snow are muscular and heal within one to two weeks with conservative treatment. If you end up with muscular back pain from shoveling, he recommends rest, heat/ice, stretching and pain reliever medication. If your symptoms don’t improve with conservative measures, make an appointment with a specialist. Symptoms that need to be evaluated urgently include significant leg pain, numbness and weakness.
For more information on back pain, visit LVHN.org/spine.