Although we have not had much snow this year, January is upon us. With snow comes shoveling and with shoveling typically comes back pain. There are many ways to prevent and treat back pain associated with shoveling.
- I recommend the “old fashioned” straight shovel versus the bent handle variety. I believe you can get a firmer, steadier grip making shoveling easier.
- Pick up smaller amounts of snow, making the shovel less heavy.
- Lift with your knees and thighs, not your lower back. Keep the twisting motion to a minimum.
- If you have problems with your lower back, use a lumbar support brace. These are velcro, elastic wraps meant to keep the lower back protected and strong. They also help to remind you to lift with your legs.
- Don’t shovel for more than 30 minutes at a time before taking a break, going inside and stretching your lower back. To stretch, lay on your stomach with your elbows bent and your forearms and palms facing down. Lift your head to cause a slight curve in your back. Hold for a couple seconds. Then turn over onto your back and pull one knee at a time towards your chest. Repeat three times with each knee. Then pull one knee at a time towards the opposite shoulder. Repeat three times with each knee.
- Do not use only heat to treat back pain from shoveling. Although tempting in the cold weather, heat increases blood flow to an overworked or injured area. The heat will initially feel good, but quickly you will begin experiencing spasms and pain. Instead, I recommend taking a warm, wet towel and wringing it as dry as you can. Place this damp, warm towel across the bare skin of your lower back. Lay an ice pack over the damp, warm towel. Keep the ice on for 10 minutes. You can repeat this every 30 minutes.