Snow shoveling back pain is a yearly torturous event for people all over the colder parts of the globe. Snow removal is hard work and accounts for a variety of back injuries every winter. Luckily, most of these occurrences are not serious and will resolve with a bit of rest, some ice or heat and possibly some OTC pain relievers. Nothing can make shoveling easy, but there are many ways to reduce the chance of injury by following a few common sense guidelines.
This article provides guidance on safe, sane and back-friendly snow removal practices.
Causes of Snow Shoveling Back Pain
Snow implies cold weather. Cold muscles are easily injured, since they are tight and taut. The cold also reduces the blood supply to some muscles, making them far more prone to experience structural ischemia concerns. This can result in cramping or spasms, especially after overworking already tired parts of the anatomy.
Muscular back pain is the most common form of injury suffered during snow removal. Bending and twisting while carrying large loads of snow can cause muscular and disc injuries.
Slips and falls on snow and ice can cause muscle pain, bruises and even fractured vertebrae in the spine. Coccyx injuries are common and can be particularly painful to endure. Every year, hospital emergency departments fill up with people who fall on their coccyx on concrete, suffering bone bruises or even fractures… Ouch.
Preventing Snow Shoveling Back Pain
Here are some tips for preventing injury and pain when dealing with snow removal responsibilities:
Warm up before shoveling. A few minutes of stretching and calisthenics in a warm place are advised before beginning snow removal.
Dress warm and wear layered clothing. This will keep your muscles warm and also cushion your landing in case of an unexpected fall.
Use a quality ergonomic shovel to minimize the need to bend and reach.
Wear boots or shoes with excellent traction to prevent falling on the icy surfaces under the snow.
Do not overexert yourself. Only lift what you are capable of lifting. Take your time and work smart.
Consider buying a snow blower to do the heavy work for you.
Use ice melt underfoot when shoveling to make shoveling easier, as well as to provide needed traction to prevent slipping and falling.
Back Pain from Shoveling Snow
Snow removal back ache is so common during the winter here in New York. I remember patients lined up at my chiropractor’s office, all telling their snow removal horror stories while waiting to be treated. I have pulled a muscle or 2 myself while moving snow from my own properties.
If you have to shovel, use your mind, as well as your body. Do not rush and do not be foolish. Dress appropriately and take time to warm up your body prior to beginning. Come up with a plan to avoid having to do more work than is needed. Lift only what you are capable of and do not feel ashamed to ask for help.
Remember too that the emotional stress of being late for work or other important event from shoveling can cause psychogenic symptoms to occur. Never discount the role of the mindbody processes even in snow shoveling related pain syndromes!
Worse case scenario, pay someone else to do the work and take the risk for you. After all, snow removal is big business and sometimes it is better to pay in gold than to pay in pain. Stay warm out there.