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  • Writer's pictureTanya Hilts


How to avoid back pain when raking and shoveling. No one wants to think about shoveling snow least of all me since Summer is defiantly one of my favorite seasons, but with fall upon us and winter coming I thought I would give you some tips.

It’s easy to forget how strenuous ranking and shoveling are. Every year we strain our backs, pull our muscles and who knows what other injuries we get. Raking and shoveling snow are 2 activities that if not done properly can cause some of the major risk factors for developing a musculoskeletal injury. These include repetitive movements, awkward postures, and frequent bending and twisting.

Here are some tips to prevent back pain:

Start with a proper warm-up – Thin k of raking or shoveling the same way you would think of a workout. Static stretching is very helpful in reducing injuries. To warm up take 5 or 10 minutes to do some of the following:

Go for a brisk walk, march on the spot, go up and down the stairs or move repeatedly through a variety of stretches.

  1. Use the right equipment – select a rake that goes up to your chin. Select a shovel that reaches mid-chest height. A shovel or rake that’s too short results in increased bending of the back. Try using a wide shovel to push the snow and a small shovel to lift it. This will help to ensure when you’re lifting a load of snow it is not too heavy. Take your time and find the right equipment for you. It’s best to look for equipment that’s lightweight to prevent straining your neck & shoulders.

  2. Work in Chunks – Repetitive movements put us at a higher risk of injury. So, instead of raking the whole backyard into piles at once and then doing all the lifting afterward, rake a small pile bag and then continue. You would do the small with shoveling. Put a small section of snow to the edge, then do the lifting for that section.

  3. Set the right pace – Slow and steady wins the race! For raking doing it over a couple of hours or even days will help. And for snow...try clearing it early and often. If snow is expected throughout the day, it’s better to clear a few inches multiple times. Fresh snow is fluffy, light, and easier to move than heavily packed or wet snow.

  4. Take Frequent breaks – Continuing to push through when our muscles are tired increases our risk for injury. A good rule of thumb is to take 30-second micro-breaks every five minutes. Then take a 2 - 3-minute break every 15 minutes.

Hope these tips help out the next time you are out raking or shoveling, but if you do hurt your back here are a few things you can do to help.

Take a hot shower or soak in a hot bath, and use hot & cold compresses over the next few days. You should alternate between applying heat & ice over the sore area for 15-20 minutes each, and keep moving – Contrary to popular belief, bed rest is actually not recommended for acute back pain. This makes your muscles stiffer and recovery time longer & lastly lying down you may find relief from lying on your back and placing cushions under your knees or from lying on your stomach and using your arms to press your chest up (cobra).

“It’s bad news when you get to the age where your back goes out more than you do.” 

Until next time,

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