Shoveling snow can be a treacherous job, especially if you’ve just had several inches of heavy, wet snow dumped onto your driveway. Unfortunately, it can also lead to back injury and lower back pain after shoveling. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this pain from occurring; as well as ways to deal with the pain (and the potential injury) once you’ve got it.
Understanding Back Pain Associated with Snow Shoveling
This winter here in Michigan, I’ve been doing a lot of shoveling (thanks a lot, Lake Effect.) Unfortunately, I’ve also learned the hard way that shoveling can result in serious lower back pain.
Dr. Henry Goitz at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan states that lower back strain is the number one injury that people suffer from after shoveling. Other common injuries that occur with snow shoveling include herniated or ruptured discs and various shoulder injuries. (Dr. Goitz notes that pain that radiates down your leg is often indicative of a herniated or ruptured disc and requires medical attention.)
It should also be noted that some people with heart conditions may suffer from serious heart-related issues (including a heart attack,) during or following a rigorous shoveling escapade.
How to Prevent Lower Back Pain When Shoveling Snow
Many people get up first thing in the morning and shovel their driveway before work. While this is great for getting the car out of the driveway, it also means that your body isn’t quite awake and chances are, you haven’t stretched properly.
Prior to shoveling (especially if you’re about to shovel heavy, wet snow,) be sure to do some stretching. Fit Sugar offers up two basic stretches that anyone can do prior to shoveling snow that can help prevent lower back pain from occurring.
While shoveling your driveway, bend with your knees rather than bending over with your back to shovel. Remember how you were taught to pick up a box? The same can be said for shoveling, and it could be all the difference that you need for preventing back pain.
That, of course, and a better quality shovel. Though that cheap, $5 shovel might be tempting (and good for your budget,) it won’t be good for your back and could result in a few hundred (or thousand) dollars worth of medical bills if you should injure yourself. Therefore, when shopping for a snow shovel, pick one that suits your height and is easy for you to handle. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to snow shovels.
Dealing with Back Pain After Shoveling Snow
As noted above, serious pain requires immediate medical attention. However, lower back pain that is mild in nature can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain medications (such as ibuprofen,) rest and alternating between an ice compress and a heating pad. Always check with your doctor prior to taking any medications and always follow all dosing instructions. Pain that does not dissipate within a few days should be brought to the attention of a doctor.