Let it snow…let it snow…let it snow. It’s that time of year again when many of us are outside clearing snow. We’ve already had some incredible snowstorms in many regions of North America and the sheer volume of snow to remove often results in back and neck pain. Whenever we are bending and twisting while lifting heavy snow, we need to be extremely careful. Bending and twisting with a load increases the mechanical stress on spinal muscles, ligaments, joints and discs. Combine that with the exertion of throwing the snow off of the shovel and we put our back under a lot of pressure that can lead to debilitating pain.  The Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA) suggests before you start removing the white stuff:
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in the winter months as it is in the summer.
  • Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as you get warm.
  • Wear proper footwear. Shoes and boots with solid treads on the soles can help to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
  • Pick the right shovel. Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body. An ergonomically correct model (curved handle) will help prevent injury and fatigue. Also, if you spray the blade with a silicone-based lubricant, the snow will slide off more easily.
  • Warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning any snow removal to get your joints moving and increase blood circulation. A brisk walk will do it.
The OCA also recommends the following techniques to avoid back pain:
  • Push don’t throw. Push the snow to one side and avoid throwing it. If you must throw it, avoid twisting and turning — position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile.
  • Bend your knees. Use your knees, leg and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.
  • Watch for ice. Be careful on icy walkways and slippery surfaces. Intermittent thaws and subsequent freezing can lead to ice building up underfoot, resulting in nasty slips and falls. Throwdown some salt or sand to ensure you have a good footing.
If you do all of these things and still manage to hurt yourself, it’s always best to seek treatment from a healthcare professional who may tackle your pain with manual therapy, exercises, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and often laser therapy. Laser therapy which is now referred to as photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) is recommended by the American College of Physicians & Surgeons as an effective non-pharmacological treatment for low back pain. It works by reducing inflammation, increasing circulation and accelerating tissue repair of strained muscles and ligaments as a result of snow shoveling. A combination of effective treatment that includes PBMT will ensure your low back and/or neck pain recovers as quickly as possible. Of course, avoiding injuries in the first place should be the focus of anyone faced with the sometimes-daunting task of removing that huge pile of snow left by your friendly snow plow driver. For more information on how PBMT can help back pain, check out this webinar link: https://bioflexlaser.com/personal-webinar-customer-support/ References: https://chiropractic.on.ca/self-management/lift-light-shovel-right/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28192793/