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5 Shoveling Tips for a Healthy Back

 

If you live in a part of the country that experiences heavy snowfall, clearing your sidewalk or driveway may be a chore you simply can’t avoid. Unfortunately, snow shoveling results in thousands of back injuries every year, as well as fractures, head injuries, and even heart problems. Adults over the age of 55 are most likely to be hurt, and for those already living with back pain, a further injury can be excruciating.

Shoveling does not have to be a pain in the back. Follow these simple shoveling tips to keep your back healthy all winter long.

  1. Be careful to avoid falls.

Before you even touch the shovel, assess the danger of falling. Slipping on compacted snow and ice can be especially dangerous when hefting a heavy shovel, so spreading sand or rock salt before you step out is always a good precaution. Remember to wear sensible shoes or boots—if the sole does not provide traction, they don’t belong on snow.

  1. Use the right type of shovel.

If you find the shovel you typically use leaves you sore, it’s time to shop for a replacement. A curved handle is best if you’re worried about back problems, and an adjustable length can reduce the amount of bending necessary. A plastic blade will be lighter than a metal one, and the snow will not stick to it as much, making it easier and more efficient to use.

  1. Prepare your body.

The worst thing you can do for your back is start shoveling with cold muscles. Remember that shoveling is exercise, and it will likely be demanding on muscles that you don’t often use. Warm up with some light exercises like marching in place, and perform some gentle stretches, focusing on your arms, shoulders, and back.

  1. Lift properly.

Your back should remain straight while shoveling. Bend at the knees, never the waist, and lift with your leg muscles. Avoid twisting your back or throwing snow over your shoulder—try to pivot your body instead, or simply push the snow out of the way to avoid lifting it altogether.

  1. Go slow and steady.

Snow shoveling can be boring, and you may be tempted to rush the task, but breaking it up over a period of hours or days will give your muscles time to recover and reduce the risk of injury. Take regular breaks to stretch, and stop immediately if you experience pain. Ask a family member or neighbor for assistance, or consider hiring outside help.

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