Shovelling your way out of back pain

It's that time of year again - when the snow flies and you shudder at the thought of tackling the driveway with your trusty shovel. The most common reported injury when shovelling snow is low back pain. Incorrect body mechanics can put undue stress on the joints and muscles of the lower back causing that all too common backache.

Here are some snow removal tips that can help you prevent low back injuries this season:

1. Warm Up:  Before you start to shovel, spend 5-10 minutes warming up your muscles. Try marching on the spot, climbing stairs, or taking a quick walk. This will help improve joint mobility and improve circulation.

2. Use Proper Ergonomics:  Ensure that your shoulders and hips are square to the shovel, pushing the snow rather than lifting it. Bend from your knees, not from your waist. Take lighter loads - the weight of the snow should not exceed 10-15 lbs per load. Avoid twisting and never throw snow over your shoulder. Keep the heaviest part of the load closest to your body. Finally, ensure that your hands are far enough apart (12 cm) to provide better stability.

3. Pace Yourself:  Take breaks often. It is recommended that you shovel for no more than 15 minutes at a time, followed by a rest of at least 2-3 minutes. Use these breaks to stretch and stay hydrated with water.

4. Choose the Right Shovel:  There are many types of shovels on the market today. Choose one with a curved or contoured shaft, which helps to reduce the need to bend forward while shovelling. Use a light weight plastic shovel, as opposed to a metal one, which may be too heavy. Ensure that the shovel is the right height for you. The handle should measure up to the level of your chest, which helps reduce strain on your low back by preventing excessive forward bending.

If you do find yourself with pain after shovelling snow, seek treatment as soon as possible. Early intervention is key to ensuring a quick recovery.

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