Back pain is one of the most common reasons for doctor visits, especially during winter weather. Some of those injuries happen after it snows and people try to shovel. Prepare in advance before you begin. First, choose the right snow shovel; those with a curved or adjustable handle will help minimize bending over, which often causes back pain. It also helps to loosen up muscles beforehand to avoid injury. Warm up simply by marching in place and doing some quick stretches.
It’s also important to use ergonomic lifting techniques to avoid injury:
- When possible, push snow to one side rather than lifting it.
- If you have to lift the shovel full, grip it with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible.
- Bend at the hips, not your lower back, and push your chest out. Bend your knees and lift with leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
- Do not extend your arms to throw the snow.
If you feel yourself falling, try to land on your side or buttocks. Do not fight the fall, and try to roll somewhat naturally, allowing your head to turn the direction of the roll.
If you do experience mild back or neck pain, try to rest and recuperate at home first by following this plan:
- One day of bed rest
- Take anti-inflammatories
- Ice regularly – 10 minutes on and 20 minutes off
If back or neck pain persists for longer than 2 weeks or gets progressively worse, it’s time to visit a spine specialist. Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health has an exceptional network of providers dedicated to helping patients maintain good spine, bone and joint health.
Dahari Brooks, MD, is a spine surgeon in Greensboro and a member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff. Brooks received his Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience from the University of Rochester and his Doctor of Medicine from Cornell University Medical College. He completed his surgical internship and orthopedic residency at the University of Rochester and his spine fellowship at the State University of New York at Syracuse University. His training focused on degenerative conditions of the spine as well as spinal malignancy, trauma and deformity.