Column: Six secrets to injury-free snow shoveling

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Commentary by Tiffany Thacker

Shoveling snow is a wintertime activity that can quickly result in back injuries and pain. Without proper technique, bending, lifting and scooping heavy snow can cause stress on the spine and supporting muscles and may result in injury. Preventing back injuries is much easier than treating back pain. The following tips can help dig out without throwing your back out.

The equipment you use can help minimize injury. Choose a shovel with a good ergonomic design. A shovel with a contoured handle can minimize bending and stooping. Instead of lifting the snow, consider pushing the snow with the shovel.

The right footwear can make or break you. Having a boot or shoe with good tread is important to prevent slipping.

Warm up for shoveling. Do some gentle stretches to loosen your muscles. Dress warmly because cold, tight muscles are more prone to muscle strain and injury.

Minimize slippery conditions by throwing sand, rock salt or kitty litter on areas where you are working. This will decrease the risk of falls.

Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.  Spread out your shoveling over a longer period of time, removing small amounts of snow frequently. When snow is deep, remove only a few inches of depth at a time.

Use good body mechanics. Always face the direction you are shoveling. Keep hands about 12 inches apart. Push the snow whenever possible. If you have to lift, bend at the hips and push your chest out; then to lift the load, bending at your knees and lifting with your leg muscles while keeping your back straight.

Back injuries and back pain are very common. Approximately 80 percent of Americans seeking treatment for it at some point during their lifetimes. If you find yourself experiencing back pain, call the Spine Center at IU Health North for an evaluation: 317.688.BACK (2225).

IU Health Spine Center nurse coordinator Tiffany Thacker, RN, BSN, offers tips to staying safe while digging out


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