Winter in the Mid-Atlantic region is just about upon us and that means more injuries sustained because of heavy lifting and backbreaking snow shoveling. Snow removal is one of the leading causes of injuries and back pain during the winter months. At Pain and Spine Specialists, we often see dozens of patients with back strains, muscle pulls and spasms, and even herniated disks as a result of improper shoveling techniques.
This winter, spare your back from the perils of heavy lifting and snow shoveling injuries with these 7 important tips:
- Dress for the occasion. It may sound obvious but wearing layers, warm winter clothes, outerwear, insulated gloves, boots, and a hat is the first step to preparing your body for the blistering cold. Keeping the muscles warm can help prevent tears and pulls during physical activity.
- Warm up. When it’s cold outside, it takes longer for the muscles to warm up. Before lifting a shovel, take a few minutes to perform a few simple back and neck stretches to prevent strains or injury.
- Practice proper lifting techniques. Snow, especially when it’s wet, can get very heavy. Just as you would when lifting a heavy box, for example, make sure to bend at the hips and knees when moving snow. Use your leg muscles, avoid sudden twists and rotation of the back, and do not bend over to pick up heavy loads without bending at the knees.
- Walk, don’t throw. While it’s tempting to get as much snow on the shovel at one time as possible to make the job go faster, the heavier the shovel gets, the more likely an injury will occur. Don’t lift loads that are too heavy or put excessive strain on the back, neck or shoulders. Instead of twisting and tossing snow, walk the loaded shovel out of the path. This will help you avoid muscle strain from over-rotation of the back.
- If you have a heart condition, check with a doctor before over-exerting yourself.
- Take frequent breaks when shoveling snow and keep yourself hydrated.
- Cool down. After snow shoveling is completed, cool down with a few back, neck and shoulder stretches.