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Snow Removal is a Pain in the Back!

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The first real blasts of winter weather haven’t hit most of the country yet, but we all know it’s on the way. Every year after the first big snowfall, doctors, chiropractors and massage therapists see a dramatic increase in patients complaining of muscle pain and stiffness after cleaning up a good dumping of snow. The lucky ones have health insurance coverage that provide for these treatments, and that’s a good thing because improper shoveling techniques can lead to a lifelong pain in the back!

Getting treatment for a snow-related injury is a fantastic idea, but it’s best to prevent those injuries in the first place by using safe shoveling techniques.

Use an ergonomic shovel: An ergonomic shovel with a curved or adjustable handle will help keep you upright so you only have to bend a little to keep the shovel on the ground. If it’s made of plastic, you’re not adding the weight of the snow to the weight of the shovel.

Do a warm-up routine: You might feel ridiculous doing jumping jacks in your living room before heading out to shovel, but your cold, tight muscles will thank you. When your heart rate is up a little, do some gentle twists and stretches to warm up your hamstrings and lower back.

Shovel while it’s snowing: It’s a bit of an exercise in futility to shovel while it’s still snowing, but if you happen to be home during a big snowstorm, clearing away a few centimeters every few hours will be a lot easier on your back and arms.

Use proper lifting techniques: You’ve probably heard this a hundred times before, but let’s make it 101 just in case: LIFT WITH YOUR KNEES! And while you’re at it, pivot your whole body in the direction you’re throwing the snow rather than awkwardly twisting yourself.

Accept that good enough is good enough: That blinding winter sun can be your best friend! Don’t lift more shovelfuls than absolutely necessary. Clear a patch reasonably well, spread your de-icer of choice and let the sun take care of the rest.

Treat it like exercise: Think of every shovelful as a single rep, so only do 10-15 at a time before resting. Keep water handy, because while it’s tempting to make it a warm cup of cocoa or something a little stronger, water is the best choice to stay hydrated. Keep drinking water once you’re back inside, and do another stretching routine when you’re done for the day.

When it’s Too Late for Good Shoveling Techniques

If you experience severe pain after shoveling, you should call your doctor. But if it’s just mild discomfort, over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help. Or check your health insurance policy to see if massage therapy is covered. You’ve earned it!

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