Snow Shoveling a Major Back Hazard

Shoveling snow is a great opportunity to get healthful exercise. And in winter, exercise of any type can be hard to come by. Outdoor exercise is believed to be particularly healthy.

Unfortunately, when you shovel improperly, it's easy to foul up your low back.

Your low back is particularly at risk if you're over 50 or if you've previously had back problems. (And, in addition to your chance of aggravating your low back, cardiologists are also concerned that if you're out of shape you could overtax your heart.)

But younger people are not immune. I've seen some pretty serious low back problems emerge in patients in their 20's and 30's.

Proper snow shoveling technique comes down to four basic things:

1. Do not overdo

If you have lots of snow to dig out from, break your job into smaller sections and allow rest periods in between. And do not load up your shovel too heavily (… remember, wetter snow is heavier than dry snow.)

2. Bend your knees, not your back.

One way to rivet this into your mind is that, even as your shovel attacks the snow pile, continue to look forward, not down. You'll find you have to bend your knees.

3. Do not twist your trunk to throw the snow off your shovel.

You've got to turn your feet and fling straight instead. It takes an instant longer but it's worth the extra moment.

4. Buy an ergonomic shovel.

You know the funny looking ones with the bent handles? You do not have to bend as much to load them with snow.