Snow Shoveling 101: Seven Suggestions to Prevent Backpain

Blackman pressing an ice bag on his aching back

Blackman pressing an ice bag on his aching back

Since many people are engaging in the necessary task of snow shoveling and hurting their backs in the process, I wanted to post a checklist of things to consider before heading out in the cold. I’ve scoured the internet and come up with a compilation of suggestions that seem to make the most sense.

Here goes:

  1. Many posts remarked that shoveling snow is like an athletic event. One estimated that the average shovel of snow can weigh around 16 lbs, in wet snow conditions, and if a quick pace was maintained that in 10 mins. you could have lifted 2,000 lbs. of wt.!! Sooo…Consider your present state of health. If you have heart trouble, high blood pressure, breathing issues, back issues or just don’t physically feel up to the task, it may be best to wait and/or enlist the help of family, friends or neighbors.
  2. Layer up your clothing. If you’ve got a big job ahead, you’re going to perspire. Taking layers off keeps your clothes from getting damp which can lead to lowering your core temperature and hypothermia.
  3. Hydrate before and after to replace fluids lost through perspiration. Avoid caffeinated drinks that may raise your heart rate and blood pressure.
  4. Most posts seemed to favor the ergonomically curved shovel as it requires less bending of the back to use. These shovels are well suited for pushing the snow aside vs lifting and throwing the snow. Supporting the shovel at about belt height can lessen the strain on back muscles as you push.
  5. When using either type of shovel: Keep your feet shoulder width apart. Take a wide grip on the shovel and if you lift the load of snow, hold it close to your body. As you lift with your legs (and not your back), lift your chin up as well. This keeps your spine in better alignment during the effort. When you throw the snow: step into it. Have your nose follow your toes! No twisting of your back when throwing the snow.
  6. For wet sticky snow, spray the shovel with Pam to prevent it from sticking to the shovel.
  7. Rather than taking on the whole pile of snow at once, consider smaller shovels full. Maybe 3″ at a time. It will take longer, but when your done, you’re done. Your less likely to have to then start nursing an aching back!

Should all of your best efforts still result in a sore back, give me a call to make an appointment. 🙂

(See Medical Disclaimer Blog Post)