Every winter — and well into spring, as we know firsthand in North Dakota — snowstorms and blizzards can leave piles of snow to be cleared in the aftermath.
Good news: Even as few as 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate physical activity, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health (1996). Healthy adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
Bad news: Shoveling after a heavy snowfall can lead to muscle strains and back injuries, especially if you don’t lift properly. It can also put severe stress on the heart or lead to heart attacks. Lifting a single shovel load of wet snow can require the same effort as lifting up to 25-pound weights.
Consider the following before grabbing a shovel after a major snowfall:
- Lift smaller loads of snow rather than heavy shovelfuls.
- Bend at the knees and ensure that all lifting is done with the legs.
- Use a shovel with a shaft that allows the back to remain straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier.
- Step in the direction in which the snow is thrown to prevent excessive twisting of the lower back and prevent back pain and fatigue the next day. The spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements.
- Take frequent breaks. Walking around periodically helps extend the lower back and alleviate the stress of excessive bending.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing back pain as a result of shoveling, slips or falls, please reach out to RehabVisions at 701-483-9400. We’d love to help you feel better!