Lower Back VS Shoveling Snow

Lower Back VS Shoveling Snow
Medically Reviewed
February 16, 2015

Lower Back VS Shoveling Snow

I can remember it like yesterday. Waking up and finding out that school was cancelled because there was 10 inches of snow on the ground. You can all relate…the best feeling ever as a 10 year old! And that is what prompted me to write about it now and show you what would happen if we put your Lower Back VS Shoveling Snow.

I can also very vividly remember my mom quickly telling me to get out there and shovel The Casillo’s driveway. The Casillo’s were the “elderly” folks in the neighborhood and it was my unofficial job (along with some other neighborhood kids) to shovel out their (bigger than everyone else’s) driveway each time it snowed. We did this, of course because it was the right thing to do AND because when we finished Mrs. Cassilo would give us a pretzel stick and a hot chocolate…the good old days!

Lucky for me, and most 10 year olds, my lower back was up for the challenge. Ritchey, Roy, John and I would shovel a driveway (or six), build an igloo, go sleigh riding and have a snowball fight all before lunch and not think twice. These days…not so much.

Let’s think about this for a second. We use our lower backs for everything we do. Everything! Sitting, standing, walking, lifting and the list goes on. Then one day, without notice and likely without even warming up and stretching, we ask our lower back to lift 10-20 pounds of snow, twist our bodies and throw the snow off the driveway…20-50 times! (Depending on the size of your driveway) Let’s add to that the fact that your lower back might “talk to you” a bit while just doing the “regular stuff” like driving to work and sitting at your desk. When you think of it like that, it’s no wonder why so many folks suffer lower back injuries after shoveling snow.

So how do we avoid such pain? The first thing we must do is incorporate “healthy back” practices into our lives year round, not just 5 minutes before shoveling snow. This of course, includes regular stretching, strengthening, and yes, periodic visits to your chiropractor. When thinking more specifically about what you can do when shoveling snow is the chore on hand, follow these simple tips:

Warm Up and Gently Stretch:

Do whatever you need to get the blood flowing a bit. Walk up and down your stairs, do jumping jacks, whatever. You can’t go from the couch to the driveway! Once you’re warm, do some GENTLE stretching. You want to just loosen up the body a bit. Mimicking the movements you will do while shoveling is a great idea.

Use Your Legs:

Bend from the hips and knees, not the lower back when you are lifting the snow. The muscles of your legs are the biggest in your body, take advantage of that.

Avoid Twisting:

Once you have lifted the snow, turn your whole body so your shoulders and hips are square with where you are going to throw the snow. The combination of bending forward and twisting is not a favorite movement of the lower back!

Lift Smaller Portions of Snow:

The more snow you lift, the heavier it is…simple as that. Although you want to finish as quickly as possible, loading the shovel is not a great idea. Take an extra 10 minutes and finish with a smile rather than finish quickly with pain running down your legs!

Take Breaks:

Again, there is no prize for finishing quickly. If you feel your lower back getting tired, take a break and stretch out a bit.

So much of what I have stated here is common sense, but when practiced regularly can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Shoveling snow is one of things that most of us just can’t avoid. The trick is taking the extra few minutes to do it safely.

If you really want to eliminate the risk of injury, go find that 10 year old neighbor and ask him or her to do it. Having said that, you will likely have to cough up more than some hot chocolate and a pretzel stick! Did you like learning more about how shoveling snow and the like can actually harm your lower back? Did our Lower Back VS Shoveling Snow article help? We hope it did.

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