As winter storms blanket the area with mounds of snow, kids gleefully head for the sledding hills, while many of us struggle with the backbreaking chore of shoveling it. Each year, thousands of people injure their backs while shoveling snow or falling on ice. In addition to the immediate pain, if left untreated, the spine damage can worsen and lead to more severe problems such as herniated or bulging discs that may require surgery.
Here are 7 tips from the orthopedic and spine physicians at OASIS Medical and Wellness Group to help you avoid snow-shoveling and ice-related injuries:
- Wear footwear with treads for snow – Before you even take a step outside, leave high-heel shoes/boots and flat, slick soled shoes behind and instead wear shoes or boots that have rubber treads designed for to give you firm traction on snowy and icy surfaces.
- Lift with your legs – Position yourself correctly so you are balanced and your body is ready to bear the burden of the added weight. Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Bend from the knees without bending forward from your hips towards the snow. Tighten your abdominal muscles as you lift the snow, this will help support the back and spine and add strength from other areas of your body than just your back doing all of the work.
- Switch sides – Alternating between lifting and throwing the snow from each side of our body will avoid overstressing one area and help decrease soreness. You can also try switching hands on the grip to prevent hand soreness.
- Use the right shovel – Believe it or not, the kind of shovel you use can help prevent back pain or injury. Chose a shovel that is lightweight and has a curved handle, which requires less lifting and bending on your part.
- Hydrate – Shoveling snow is a great form of exercise and, with all exercise, it is important your body has plenty of fluids. Water regulates the body’s temperature and cushions vital organs to protect against damage. Being adequately hydrated also helps the body recover after a workout to decrease soreness and pain.
- Use a snow blower – Snowblowers reduce the lifting and tossing of snow to save wear and tear on your back, arms and legs. However, pushing a snowblower will increase strain on hips and legs so take frequent breaks to prevent overexertion if you aren’t accustomed to a lot of heavy physical activity.
If you have pre-existing conditions that are aggravated by shoveling snow or have severe back, joint or muscle pain that doesn’t subside within 24 hours, you should consider consulting with your healthcare provider or contact OASIS Medical and Wellness Group to determine next steps for relief at 844-203-5537