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Posted on 12-30-2015

With all of this snow, you have got to be careful while shoveling! This time of year I see many patients coming in with shoveling injuries to their lower back and shoulders. It is extremely important to protect yourself from spine and joint injury and long term damage. Improper form while shoveling can easily create spinal misalignments, sprain/strain injury and vertebral disc damage. This results not only in pain, but also lack of nerve flow to vital organs in the body. Follow these tips to keep your spine healthy while shoveling!

Do's for Safe Shoveling

-Warm-up before you start!

  • If it is a heavy job consider using some hot packs to relax the muscles beforehand.
  • Stretching the back, arms, shoulders, and legs gets your blood moving.
  • Walk in place like a solider while swinging your arms and do gentle lunges for dynamic stretches.

-Chose a shovel that is right for you!

  • A shovel with a smaller plastic blade is lighter and will minimize the strain.
  • A shovel that is made to push -not lift- will allow you to push the snow to one side.
  • A curved handle enables you to keep your back straighter while shoveling.

-Grip the shovel with your hands at least 12 inches apart. By creating distance between your hands, you increase your leverage and reduce the strain on your body.

-Push the snow! If you must lift, bend at the knees and lift with your legs, and most importantly do not twist your body. Twisting and lifting can quickly damage the discs between the spinal bones and cause nerve impingement.

-Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once; do it piecemeal. Shovel an inch or two; then take another inch off. Rest and Repeat if necessary.

~Shovel slowly and deliberately, allowing your legs and thighs to assist you moving the snow to the side. Don't plant your feel while shoveling.

-Pace yourself and take frequent breaks to gently stretch your back and legs.

-Consider buying a snow blower!

Another reason you don't want to overwork yourself is because shoveling can cause certain individuals to be more at risk for a heart attack. It is important to know that if you smoke or have a history of heart disease or have had a previous heart attack you are more likely to have another one. So take it easy , and if you feel any pain, stop!

Stay safe and happy shoveling!

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