Winter brings holidays, cold weather, and sore backs. One of the most common causes of low back strains in the winter is poor mechanics while shoveling snow. Snow shoveling is particularly stressful for the lower back for several reasons. The motion of lifting the snow requires a lot of strength and stability in the spine. The throwing of the snow creates torque stress on the spine, which predisposes it to injury. If shoveling until fatigue, the muscles become strained, and the likelihood of injury increases.
Most people have heard to protect the back, you should use your legs while shoveling. To minimize the stress on the lumbar (low back) joints, bending the knees and hips is important. Once the snow is on the shovel, the knees and hips should be straightened, and without twisting at the spine, the body should be turned to dump the snow. By minimizing twisting at the spine while shoveling, the risk of injury reduces substantially.
Gene Shirokobrod is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Physical Therapy.
[Editor’s note: You may recognize cute little Aaron as Stephanie Fleming’s grandson, with her son-in-law Gene. The other day, when he showed Stephanie the proper way to shovel snow, she asked him to write a short little piece on it. Stephanie’s hoping to get him to speak at Behnke’s on good gardening practices.]
By Guest Blogger Dr. Gene Shirokobrod