Has your back been aching after an already long winter, and it’s only the beginning of February? Did you ever stop to think that you might be doing it wrong? Shoveling, that is. And, if you are not using a snow blower, like many of us are not, me included, you basically have a couple choices when it comes to shoveling snow…Shoveling after every few inches of snow fall, or waiting until the storm ends, and then remove the snow in layers, are the pretty obvious choices I would say. If shoveling snow after you have waited for it all to accumulate, the please remove only as much snow as you are comfortable lifting and moving at a time.
It is also recommended that you clear your driveway in two stages if shoveling. First, you should push the snow to the edges of the driveway with a versatile snow shovel (there are various types of snow shovels if you didn’t know, and this is one that is good for throwing, lifting and pushing), then shovel what’s left in the way out of the way. The more you can push the snow instead of actually lift and shovel the snow, the better! One tip, if you have an uneven pavement, an all plastic snow shovel without a steel edge would be better and less likely to catch and possibly “jar” your wrist, elbow, shoulder, or back.
Even if you have been dealing with shoveling snow on and off your whole life, the basic idea is to work smarter, not harder – avoid unnecessary work! Clear a path on your way to your car, that way you avoid packing down the snow along the way, and packed snow is much tougher to shovel. We all know that! Just look at the last storm we had that packed down a lot of heavy and wet snow, ugh L
Don’t bother too much with the snow close and around your car at first. Turn your car on to defrost and melt the snow on it, while you start shoveling elsewhere. It is usually just easier to clear the snow close and around your car later after you have cleared off what is left on your car as well. To be more efficient, it is better to remove that snow once towards the end as a final touch up. Remember, every additional scoop you make is extra strain on your body! If you are in good shape and aiming for this to be a work out, awesome, just please move carefully as well (the same rules generally apply), otherwise one should be trying to conserve movement.
Don’t worry too much about shoveling the snow where your driveway meets the road right away. As we all know, the plows go by and always fill that area with more snow, lucky us! If I were you, I would wait until the end to shovel that part, or when the plows have finished, or at least gone by once depending on the size of the storm. When tackling this part of the driveway, be sure to do it in stages, as the snow will be much heavier to shovel.
Try and have a plan of attack before going out to shovel snow. It may even be best to break up shoveling into smaller sections and rest in between if needed. Like stated before, try and clear your driveway in stages, rather than all at once. Try not to create huge piles of snow while shoveling either, it becomes harder to lift and throw the snow, and can put more pressure on your spine and back. Another tip as well, make sure you know where your walkways or pathways are, and do not shovel more snow into those areas. You will in turn have to shovel that snow, plus the snow already there. There is NO need to move that snow twice! Our backs are not meant for this kind of work.
It is still a good possibility that even following all of this advice and the tips, you could end up with a “bad back” a day or two after shoveling. That is why you always hear, “Lift with your legs!”. You want to avoid at all cost putting added stress on your low back, let your legs do the work. For example, bend your knees to lower yourself to pick up the shovel off the ground, and same goes for accessing the snow. DO NOT bend your back to reach the snow. After scooping up a shovel full of snow, use your legs to raise yourself back up. When you are going to stand back up as well with the snow on the shovel, do not have your arms stretched out away from your body, your back will be doing much of the work that way, and in an odd and vulnerable position. Keep the load of snow close to your body, as it will help to keep stress off your low back. And one other thing, and I promise to be done talking about shoveling snow (how depressing), ALWAYS move your upper body and upper body together when turning to throw the snow. NEVER twist or rotate with your upper body only, that is a recipe for a herniated disc, or a very back low back strain. Okay, I am done ranting on, for now anyway…
Performance Health Center always sends out an email reminder to all of our patients and friends before a snow storm to help remind you all how to perform snow removal safely with a shovel. It’s because we care, and would rather see you in our office for your monthly maintenance or wellness visit, not because you threw your back out shoveling! If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of this information, be sure to email one of the docs at PHC, or talk to us at your next office visit. Happy shoveling you guys, and only two more months of winter, but who’s counting? I sure am! DrV@performancehealthcenter.com