As you prepare to enjoy the wonderful world of winter, remember that the common winter chore of snow shoveling can present the potential for spasms, strains, sprains and other health problems, cautions the Minnesota Chiropractic Association™ (MCA) and the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
Bending and twisting when tossing a shovel of heavy snow can aggravate lower back discs, according to the MCA. In addition, the overall physical exertion required for snow shoveling, without proper conditioning, often results in painful injuries.
Chiropractors advise you to be prepared and follow these tips when snow shoveling:
- Maintain your exercise program year-round.
- Listen to weather forecasts so you can rise early and have time to shovel before work; rushing the job can lead to injury.
- Wear layers of clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible.
- Do some stretching before you grab the shovel.
- For big jobs, use a motorized snow blower. If you shovel by hand, use a lightweight, ergonomically designed shovel to reduce back strain.
- When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don’t try to throw it; walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
- Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.
- Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.
- Stop if you feel chest pain, or get excessively tired or have shortness of breath. You may need immediate professional care.
- If you feel sore after shoveling, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two.