Save your back while shoveling snow

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The coldest and snowiest time of the year has arrived once again. And although it’s no surprise we’ll be shoveling snow for the next few months, many people will experience back injuries when clearing their driveways and sidewalks.

Before you head outside with your shovel in-hand, Iriny Jacoub, Practice Lead at the Rapid Access Clinics for Low Back Pain at Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital, shares tips on how to shovel snow safely to avoid common injuries.  

  • Warm up, cool down
    Temperatures during this time are usually below zero and our bodies need to adjust. Before going outside, make sure to warm up by stretching to loosen up your muscles. When shovelling, remember it’s important to take breaks throughout and don’t over-extend yourself.
  • Bend with your knees
    Posture is very important when shoveling. Stand with a wider than normal stance, so that you can bend your knees rather than bending your back.
  • Control your movements
    Snow can get very heavy, and depending on the temperature it can freeze.  Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side, limit any twisting movements which can put a lot of stress on your back. Push the snow with your shovel instead of lifting it.
  • Work smarter, not harder!                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you are buying a new shovel, try to find one that is made of lightweight material, has a longer or adjustable length shaft and is ideally curved.

“During the winter months, five to 10 per cent of the patients we see in the clinic have hurt their back shoveling snow or due to a fall on snow or ice,” says Iriny. “Back health is really about keeping your core strong by doing a little bit everyday. I challenge the community to add planks and a walking program to their regular exercise routine.”

Rapid Access Clinics for Low Back Pain
If you’ve been suffering from low back pain or related leg pain for at least six weeks and less than 12 months, talk to your doctor about Rapid Access Clinics for Back Pain (formerly ISAEC). It’s an Ontario-wide program designed to get you back in action, sooner. Learn more about the clinic.