Snow Shovelling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries! | Nose Creek Physiotherapy
Blair Schachterle Health Tips

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Snow Shovelling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries!

Winter is back once again along with the snow and frigid cold temperatures. You will need to get the winter gear out of storage, and don’t forget to find your snow shovel.
Shovelling snow last year was probably the last time that you did anything physical.  Have you ever noticed that after shovelling snow your back feels sore or achy? Possibly you’ve felt pain or pins and needles going down the back of your leg. Do you ever find yourself hunched in agony, stuck forward in a bent over position or holding your lower back?

When you shovel snow, there is a combined movement pattern of forward bending coupled with twisting/rotation. This combination of movements over a period of 20 – 30 minutes can play havoc on your back, especially if you already have a history of back pain. During such an event, several structures may be involved such as muscle, ligament, tendon, joint, bone or the intervertebral disc. Often the disc can be injured when stressed with movements like this. When a person bends forwards and then twists and rotates, the orientation of the disc fibres become distorted and weakened. The disc can become inflamed and swollen, causing back pain and/or muscle spasms. If it’s bad enough, you may feel pain and/or pins and needles going down your leg. The distorted disc tissue may also create a mechanical blocking effect where a person gets stuck leaning forward and can’t stand back up straight without intense pain. 

Remember to have good posture while you shovel. Keep your shovel moving forward and when you scoop up the snow, pivot on your foot by turning your whole body to dump the snow. Move your entire body rather than separating your upper and lower body by twisting. Try alternating sides that you dump the snow on by shovelling down one direction to the left then come back going to the right. It is important to take frequent breaks and allow yourself to stretch your spine backwards by supporting your hands on your hips and leaning backwards. This is a great way to counter-balance the spinal movements you just did.
After you’ve finished shovelling, instead of just sitting down in your favourite chair where the disc tissue may start to swell, it is a good idea to lie on the floor on your stomach and prop up onto your forearms to stretch your spine backwards. This is similar to a Cobra position in Yoga. Hold this position for a minute or two.
Now enjoy the fresh air and exercise that you get with shovelling snow this winter, and remember that if you do experience back pain you can always contact us at Nose Creek Physiotherapy. With regularly scheduled Massages we’ll help you control your back pain.  

If these stretches do not relieve your pain, give Paul a call at 403.295.8590 and he will be happy to help you get your lower back pain under control. At Nose Creek Physiotherapy, we strive to get all our clients moving faster and feeling better.


Blair Schachterle
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