The Right Way to Shovel Snow and Other Winter Tips to Save Your Back

Winter is here, that time when Mother Nature likes to have her fun dropping the white stuff over much of the U.S., testing our will, our ability to deal with the unexpected, and our backs.  Whether you get a little snow or a lot, snow is heavy and shoveling it the wrong way can cause you to be laid up in bed with back problems. Shoveling can be extremely strenuous and can cause stress on the entire body.  In fact, approximately 100 people die each year snow shoveling, usually due to cardiac arrest.

The best way to shovel snow is to get a snowblower.  Or to pay the neighborhood kids to do it. If you have to do it yourself, be sure to follow these helpful tips:

Use your legs.

It’s almost natural to scoop up some snow with your shovel and lift with your back, twist, and toss it using your back.  Instead, scoop and then lift with your knees. As you’re standing, look at where your feet are: one closer to the snow and one behind.  Instead of tossing the snow to your front leg’s side which uses your back, toss to your back leg’s side which uses your hips. A demonstration can be found here.

Lift small loads.

It’s better to lift a bunch of small scoops than a few heavy ones.  

Use boots with good traction.

You could go a step further and buy stabilizers that attach to the bottom of your shoes or boots that improve your shoes’ grip so you don’t slip.

Stretch first.

Shoveling snow can be as strenuous as any sport so stretch your body the way you would for sports.  Warming up will prepare your muscles and tendons for the workout.

Allow yourself plenty of time to shovel the area.

If you have to rush, you’ll increase your chances of hurting yourself.  

Take breaks.  

Don’t overdo it.  If you’ve allowed yourself plenty of time, you’ll be able to rest if you get tired.  

Use the right shovel.

Use one that is lightweight with a bent handle for better ergonomics and a plastic blade.  

Keep your feet hip-width apart.  

This will give you better balance.

Wax your blade.

Any kind of wax will do or even cooking spray will work to keep the snow from sticking to the blade.

Switch hands. 

Taking turns between right-handed shoveling and left will prevent overuse on one side.

Other Winter Back-savers

  • Always use guard rails whenever possible even if it doesn’t look icy.
  • Try to walk in well-lit areas.
  • When approaching your vehicle or getting out of it, hold onto the side or door so you don’t slip.
  • Don’t rush or run.  You may slip. Instead, always allow ample time to get where you need to go.
  • If your car gets stuck in the snow, make sure you have several people to help you push it out.  
  • Avoid carrying heavy or multiple objects while walking outside.

With a few simple precautions, you can avoid back injuries this winter.  If you do experience a fall or strain your back while shoveling snow, North County Pain Relief can help.  At North County Pain Relief, we offer a natural, drug-free approach to healing and put the health and wellbeing of all of our patients above all.  If you’re experiencing back pain or any other type of pain, call us today at (314)731-4201 and schedule an appointment. We’ve got your back!