Canada has been experiencing a very brutal winter, with recording-breaking snowfall in Newfoundland and Ontario. The Canadian military has even been summoned to help entire communities blanketed out by the devastating blizzards that have marked this snow season.
As you shovel out the piles of snow digging out your buried car, there is a real risk you will over-exert yourself and end up hurting your back. It is important to take care of yourself and avoid adding to the toll this snow season has already caused.
The Risk Of Lower Back Pain From Shovelling Snow
St. John’s International Airport in Newfoundland recorded a jaw-dropping 30 inches of snow on the third Friday of January 2020. That is a lot of snow to shovel off your front door. The record snowfall left the region, as well as a lot of people’s back health, in a state of emergency. But is shovelling snow really that dangerous for your health?
Shovelling snow is a frequent cause of back pain. It is an intensive exercise that stretches your physical endurance and will hurt you if you are not used to such heavy work. However, even for the fittest people, excessive snow shovelling puts undue strain on your musculoskeletal system. The lower back is particularly susceptible to injury and pain. Other excessive snow shovelling risks on your back include vertebral disc damage and even spinal fractures.
Tips For Avoiding Back Pain Issues From Shovelling Snow
While it is true that your snow-covered driveway isn’t going to clear itself, it is important to know just how much strain your lower back can take. The following tips will help you take care of your back as you try to deal with the heavy snowfall that has accompanied the current Canadian winter season:
- Pace Yourself. Avoid working yourself into the ground as your back may be unable to handle the excessive physical exertion. Pace yourself by taking regular breaks,
- Wear clothes that will allow you to move your body freely. As it’s winter, you want to ensure you layer up so you can keep warm while you work. But don’t layer up so much that it’s difficult to move your body comfortably as you work,
- Use a light, plastic shovel. The snow is already too heavy that you should again use a heavy tool. Plastic shovels are lighter than steel ones and will reduce pressure on your lower back,
- Get your technique right. Shovelling snow using the wrong technique exposes you to back injuries. Place your hands properly on the shovel, making sure there isn’t too little space between your two hands. Also, ensure adequate balance by spreading your legs to shoulder width so you can use your stronger leg muscles to lift and throw snow.
- Don’t throw snow over your head. In the heat to get your driveway cleared quickly, you may think to shovel snow over your head. Don’t do it. Moving your body in awkward, unnatural ways increases the risk of injury,
- Clear snow while it’s still fresh and light. Snow will get heavier the longer it stands. By clearing it early, you avoid shovelling snow when it is heavier and more taxing on your body.
How do you know if you strained your back?
You will know you have hurt your back if you experience sharp back pain. Other signs of lower back strains include stiffness in your back and the subsequent inability to maintain your normal posture. You will also face difficulty moving freely and making swift turns. Muscle spasms are another symptom of lower back sprains. But can you manage the pain on your own?
How do you relieve back pain from shovelling snow?
Your ability to manage back pain on your own depends largely on its severity. If the pain is only mild, adding Epsom salt to your warm baths after shovelling snow can soothe a painful back. Ice also works, but try alternating it with warm baths.
Eating well is another way of soothing back pain. Protein-rich foods, especially, help to promote muscle recovery. Importantly, though, stop shovelling snow the moment you start experiencing back pain. Again, avoid the chore completely if you have a pre-existing back injury. You don’t want to aggravate an old injury by taking on such a physically demanding task.
Use Physical Therapy To Manage Back Pain
Physical therapy, as well as chiropractic care and deep tissue massage, have all been proven to help heal back pain. Make an appointment with a certified physiotherapist to arrange a treatment plan for your back pain.
St. Clair Physiotherapy Clinic is a specialist physical therapy clinic in Toronto that uses different physiotherapy techniques to treat physical pain. Contact us today to start your treatment.