Avoid back injuries: follow shoveling safety tips

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—As winter bears down on the Midwest, millions of Americans will be shoveling driveways and sidewalks. While shoveling may be dreaded because it requires time and exertion in cold temperatures, it can also play havoc on an individual’s musculoskeletal system.

“Shoveling can strain the muscles between your shoulders, in your upper back, lower back, buttocks and legs,” says Michael Wiles, DC, dean of the chiropractic program at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. “Like any exercise, shoveling requires stretching as a warm-up and the use of proper form.”

Dr. Wiles offers these simple tips to keep your body healthy this winter:

Listen to weather forecasts so you can allow enough time to shovel before work so you are able to take periodic breaks. The more rushed the job, the more likely you are to be injured.

Layer your clothing to keep muscles warm and flexible.

Warm up your muscles by stretching before shoveling.

When shoveling, push the snow straight ahead and don’t try to throw it.

Walk snow to the snow bank and avoid twisting and turning motions.

Bend your knees to lift when shoveling, letting the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, rather than your back.

Stop shoveling if you feel chest pain, or get really tired or have shortness of breath.

Take a 5-minute break to help your body recover and re-energize; and

If your muscles are sore after shoveling, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 15 minutes several times a day. If the pain continues, consider visiting a doctor of chiropractic for care.

According to Dr. Wiles: “As we age, we naturally try to conserve energy and do not want to use our muscles. But, if the muscles are not used, they become weak and may be more prone to injury.” Because shoveling is a chore, people may rush the job, which leads to achy muscles or injuries—injuries that can be prevented by utilizing these helpful tips.

From the Dec. 27, 2006-Jan. 2, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!