The White River Valley, as well as the entire Western Slope, typically receives a significant amount of snowfall each winter. While this provides ample opportunities for enjoying outdoor winter sports, it also creates a major headache for you – shoveling snow. Not only is shoveling snow a hassle, but it exposes you to serious injury risk.
Back injuries are a particularly common issue caused by shoveling snow. This is especially true if you’re not in great shape. When the snow gets heavier as we transition from winter to spring, the risk of injury becomes even higher.
In general, the low back is the area of your body that is most susceptible to injury when shoveling snow. According to a study published by Cornell University, the L5-S1 disc has been identified as the weakest link in the spinal column. This is the primary reason why the most severe back injuries caused by shoveling impact this region.
If you’re shoveling snow this winter, it’s important to take the proper precautions to prevent back injuries. The following tips will help you perform this task as safely as possible.
Shoveling snow is a source of aerobic exercise and as a result, it’s important to prepare your body for these rigors before you begin shoveling. Even very physically active and fit people will reduce their risk of injury by preparing their muscles to handle the stress created by shoveling.
Make sure to perform several basic stretching exercises focused on the back and hamstrings. This will help improve blood flow through your body, loosen muscles and prepare your spine for a rigorous workout. In addition to protecting your spine, warming up and stretching prior to shoveling snow will help reduce the stress on your heart when you start shoveling.
It’s important to be properly dressed for the cold temperatures associated with shoveling snow. Cold weather causes your blood vessels to constrict, and this will reduce the flow of blood to the muscles being used when you shovel. Wearing warm, insulating and loose clothing will help keep your body warm, improving blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles.
The following tips will ensure you’re dressed appropriately for shoveling snow:
Being strategic about when you shovel snow can help reduce your risk of a back injury:
The shovel you use can impact your risk of injury. To protect your back and reduce stress on your spine, you should use an ergonomic snow shovel that allows you to move snow without having to bend at the waist. Choose a shovel that has:
While an ergonomic shovel is an important tool that will help relieve stress on your back, you can still suffer an injury if you don’t shovel properly. Therefore, it’s also critical that you use the correct technique in order to minimize the stress on your back.
The following tips will ensure you shovel snow with the proper technique:
Even when you diligently follow shoveling best practices, it’s possible that you may suffer a back injury. If that happens, Colorado Advanced Orthopedics is here to help. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained spine surgeons deliver the exceptional care you deserve. We offer a wide range of conservative treatments, such as injections and medications, prior to recommending surgery. In addition, our in-house physical therapy team has extensive experience helping patients with back injuries, and they can provide the relief you need when spine surgery isn’t necessary.
Colorado Advanced Orthopedics is committed to delivering an amazing patient experience and highly personalized treatment that will help you restore a pain free life. This includes high levels of collaboration between your surgical and physical therapy teams, ensuring all of your care providers are fully aligned on your treatment plan. This is critical to achieving the best possible outcome.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Colorado Advanced Orthopedics serves patients in Meeker and throughout the White River Valley.
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