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6 Steps to Help Prevent Lower Back Pain

January 28, 2010

Lower Back Pain – Seasonal  Injuries

Based on the season, each of us encounters different obstacles to overcome.  Given that we are in the winter months, I wanted to address some of the common activities that we may need to do during our daily routine that may be a little unusual.  By the way, this is special because these are the times that we encounter repercussions from the actions we don’t normally perform (e.g. shoveling snow).

First, there are some facts that we should appreciate in order to understand why back pain is so common when shoveling snow (and other activities):

  1. When we bend forward, the weight our back must support is multiplied… It’s physics.  The further you take an object away from your body, the more it weighs.  Let’s take a 10 lb. baby, for instance.  If you hold that baby close to your chest, you could hole them for a fairly long time without much problem.  But, suppose you hold that same baby out in front of you with your arms extended.  How long could you sustain that?  Right…not long.  Hence, the further you take an object (e.g. baby, shovel, etc) from your body, the more it weighs.
  2. Our legs, by design, are much stronger than our arms.  If a man can bench 200 lbs of weight, he can most likely leg press more than twice that!  Yet, most of us use our arms to shovel!!! Using your body design to perform tasks is obviously a better choice for self-preservation!
  3. Most of us use poor technique.  I have given more back safety seminars and assessed more businesses than I can count.  The most common mistakes are made by the individual in a rush… and not using well-defined strategies to tackle a specific task.  Simply, use your legs and lift with them and not your back or your arms.

Given these facts, it’s no wonder people suffer from back pain and can barely move the next day because of shoveling their driveway!  So what can we do?

Like many, I have had the want to hire a neighborhood kid to shovel for me…  but they never seem to around at the right time.  And, I can tell you that we cannot change our body composition… most of our body’s weight lies above the waist.  Let’s not kid ourselves.. we can’t lose that weight before the snow comes!  But, we can make different choices about how to use our body.

  1. Use your legs.  Squat down to lift a shovel.
  2. Pick up less snow per load.  Why?  Less snow extended in front of you means a lot less weight!
  3. Stick your butt out…for technique.  It will help to keep your back straight and not bent.
  4. Avoid bending and twisting at the same time.  Pick up a load first and then use your feet to turn and dump.
  5. Take a break.  Short breaks will help you to gain your composure and retain strength.
  6. Switch sides.  This will allow for more recovery time and even muscle use.
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