Complete Pediatric, Family, and Athletic Health Centre

Shoveling: How to Shovel Properly to Avoid Back Pain

Shoveling is common during this time of year, especially as the snow storms begin to hit. Many of us will shovel our driveways and walk ways to make walking and driving easier. However, many of us may not be shoveling properly.

Many people will experience back pain this winter because of incorrect biomechanics during snow removal. Here are some tips to help improve the way you shovel:

  1. Find the correct snow shovel for your body- You will want a snow shovel that will reduce the amount of bending at the hip. A curved or adjustable handle is best. If you are bending make sure to bend at the knees not at the hips. Use your legs to provide the strength and power. Also, find a light weight blade to reduce the amount you are lifting.
  2. Warm up before beginning your task- A brisk walk or some dynamic stretching will help warm up your body and muscles. It can increase blood flow and lengthen your muscles. This will help prevent injury during the taxing job of shoveling.
  3. Avoid twisting movements at the low back and hips- Make sure you are always facing what you are lifting. Ensure your body is square with the object and use your whole body to move the pile of snow.
  4. Use your legs to power your body- When picking up the snow bend at your knees and power up with your legs. This will help avoid straining your back.
  5. Ensure you have a good grip on the handle- Position your one hand as close to the blade as you can while maintaining your comfort. Your other hand can rest comfortably on the handle.
  6. Maintain your center of gravity- Keep the shovel close to your body and don’t extend or reach to dump the snow.
  7. Never lift more than your body can- Keep the loads of snow manageable for your body, this will make the task easier and less taxing on your body.

If an injury does happen manual therapy is great to help with rehabilitation. Physiotherapy, chiropractic work and massage therapy are great to provide soft tissue and joint release. They also provide remedial exercises and stretches to help with at home progress.

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