A Lesson in Safe Snow Removal

As Monmouth County braces itself for yet another snowstorm, it’s time to learn how to remove snow properly and avoid back pain and injuries.

Meteorologists have sent out the warning—a snow storm is making its way to New Jersey. This possible blizzard is likely to hit our state late on Friday night and continue through Saturday, with an accumulation of up to a foot of snow.

For some, this weather forecast predicts more than just precipitation—it may also foretell the common injuries and back pain associated with shoveling. Last December, we blogged on this subject after that month’s massive snow storm filled our office with patients complaining of back pain.

The most common injury associated with shoveling snow is a disc herniation, an injury to the lumbar discs (cushions between the vertebrae and nerves). Bending and twisting while carrying large loads of snow can cause these disc injuries. Furthermore, slips and falls on snow and ice can cause muscle pain, bruises, and even damage to the spine.

Monmouth Spine and Rehabilitation recommends a spinal adjustment following snow shoveling regardless of whether or not you are experiencing pain. Shoveling snow may cause injury to your back despite a lack of symptoms.

This month, before the snow hits, we’d like to remind you of the following tips for avoiding injury, and for choosing the right shovel for the job:

Tips for preventing back pain and injury:

• Get warmed up! Cold muscles are easily injured; it’s a good idea to warm up before you start heavy lifting and shoveling.
• Snow is lighter when it is fresh. Try to clear the snow as it comes, rather than attempting to remove it once it has become dense and compacted on the ground.
• Choose an ergonomic shovel (learn more about choosing the correct shovel below).
• Create traction. Use sand and or salt to avoid slips, trips, and falls.
• Remember to lift with your legs and not your back. Bend at the knees and maintain good posture while shoveling.
• Push, don’t lift. If it’s possible, pushing heavy snow will always be easier than trying to lift it.
• When lifting a load of snow, avoid bending, twisting, or throwing snow over your shoulder.
• Take your time and do not try to lift too much.

Tips for choosing a shovel:

• Consider ergonomics: A shovel with a curved handle may help you keep your back straighter and reduce spinal stress.
• Choose a plastic shovel—isn’t the snow heavy enough?
• While you may not be able to shovel as much snow in every load, choosing a shovel with smaller blades can ensure each load will weigh less and therefore put less strain on your back.
• Choose a shovel that was expressly designed for pushing snow. It’s much easier to push snow than to lift it!
Do not hesitate to call our office and schedule an appointment if you have back pain or have been injured. Monmouth Spine and Rehabilitation is prepared with multiple strategies—including (but not limited to) laser therapy, electrotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, ultrasound, and acupuncture to treat the types of injuries associated with shoveling snow.
In the meantime, enjoy watching the snow fall and stay safe during the snowstorm!

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