Recently I was talking with my brother Mike who said, “my lower back starts to ache whenever I see snow in the forecast.” If you too can relate to Mike’s pain, know that you are not alone. I hear this statement all the time in the clinic, and in a city like Calgary this can make it hard to get through the long and snowy winter. To help make this winter a bit more comfortable keep reading to see my top 6 tips for spine-friendly snow shoveling.
1. Lighten the load
Avoid the temptation to load up that snow shovel. Keeping the shovel light will reduce the load on your lower back and help keep you feeling your best. Yes, it may take a few minutes longer to clear the snow, but your spine with thank you the next day.
2. Keep the shovel close
The further you reach a loaded shovel away from your body, the greater the sheer stress in your lower back. An easy way to reduce this stress is to keep the shovel close to your core and tilt the shovel to unload the snow.
3. Avoid the “bend and twist”
Nothing makes my back hurt quite like watching someone bend and twist their spine while lifting – “ouch!” To keep your chiropractor from cringing, please remember to hinge from the hips and avoid spinal twisting whenever lifting or moving the shovel.
4. Engage your core
Gentle core engagement will act as a support brace for your lower back, providing extra stability when performing a challenging task. To create this abdominal brace, gently tense your core muscles, thinking of lifting your lower abdomen in and up.
5. Take breaks
A simple way to reduce lower back stress is to take frequent breaks. This may mean going inside to warm up, pausing to have a socially distanced chat with a neighbor, or merely stopping to enjoy some fresh air in the beautiful wintery wonderland.
6. Ask for help
If your lower back hurts before you even step outside, then consider asking a family member or neighbor for help. Pain is an important signal that the body uses to get your attention. Listen to your body and avoid pushing through the pain.
Written by Dr. Caitlyn Cameron BSc(Hons), BSc, DC