Protect Your Back While Shoveling


man shoveling snow

Recently, an article appeared online about Canadians “cold-shaming” each other.  Hard to believe, perhaps, that the world’s most reticent people would be so bold as to shame their fellow Canadians for having a low tolerance for the cold but here we are. Are New Yorkers really any different?  Some of us enjoy telling anyone who will listen how we love the frigid conditions and genuinely enjoy getting out there with our shovels and gettin’ ‘er done.

Who are these people?

Well, they’re probably people who throw out their backs while shoveling, as tough guys just get down to business because they’re tough!  Impervious to the cold and proud of it, these are the hardy lumberjacks among us who have surprisingly delicate backs.

But the truth is that the cold weather is nothing to be tough about.  You need to protect your back while shoveling.  You’re just as human as anyone else, even if you believe you’ve missed your lumberjack calling and have grudgingly settled for being a CPA or a code-writing tech nerd.

Let’s discuss how to protect your back while shoveling that heavy white stuff.  Tough or not, you’ll be less forthcoming about your physical resilience if you get hurt.

Warm Up!

We all know that cold muscles are vulnerable muscles.  This effect is exacerbated when the weather is cold, so warming up before picking up that shovel is on the menu.

If your back is a problem, you can start getting ready for the intense activity you’re about to do with a heating pad placed on your lower back.  This will relax the muscles and prepare them for action.  An adhesive heat wrap can also be a life saver while you’re out there.  No only does it warm the muscles of your lower back, it reminds you that you need to think about how you’re shoveling.  It’s a very effective control mechanism.

Stretching the shoulders, quadriceps and hamstrings is also good policy, ensuring they’re warm enough to do their job out there.

Proper Technique and Clothing

Once you get going, you’ll probably be hot in your heavy clothing but that shouldn’t prompt you to remove it.  Once you’ve begun to sweat, you need to keep it on.  Try wearing a long-sleeved undershirt in a wicking fabric.  Outdoor winter sports enthusiasts swear by this.

Also, check your footwear.  Your boots should have good treads to prevent you slipping in icy conditions.

Finally, when lifting that heavy, wet snow, use your legs, as you would when lifting anything else heavy.  And when discharging the load from your shovel, don’t twist to do so.  Instead, take small steps toward your objective, dump and then get back in position with the same small steps. Sudden twisting movements are the silver bullet to back injuries, so leave them out of your shoveling routine.

No matter how ardently you believe that the lumberjack is your spirit animal, winter’s hard on everyone, so take care!

Did your inner lumberjack come out before you read this?  Come see us.  We can help, with award-winning, multi-disciplinarian care.








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