Snow Shoveling Tips: Avoid Back and Elbow Pain
There are so many reasons why we should not shovel snow but sometimes you just have to. If you have tennis elbow or a bad back you need to be particularly careful when shoveling snow. I have had tennis elbow over the years and have hurt my back a number of times participating in extreme sports so I have learned how to move the snow without hurting myself.
How to Shovel Snow Pain Free
First you need a good quality, lightweight snow shovel that fits your body. Go to the local hardware store and see what feels best for you. One of the worst things you can do is try to shovel your driveway with a small or digging shovel. They are just not made to move the snow and will put much more strain on your body.
If you have or have had tennis elbow you should get one of those elbow support bands before going outside. Wearing the band will take the pressure off your elbow and prevent tennis elbow flair ups. Even if you’re using a snow blower, wear the support. Operating a snow blower can also put a lot of strain on your elbow.
One of the best things you can do to prevent tennis elbow and back pain is take your time while shoveling. Let the shovel do the work. Small scoops of snow will put less strain on the body.
When it comes to protecting your back while shoveling, make sure you keep your back straight. Don’t round your back or fully flex forward. Rounding the back while lifting snow will put too much pressure on the lower back. What you should do is brace your back by slightly contracting your abdominal muscles whenever you lift up the snow. Use the flexibility in your hips (hinge at the hips not the back) to squat down to protect the back. You can practice squatting properly by standing face forward, close to a wall and squatting down. The only way you will be able to squat down is with a straight back and you will have to hinge at the hips.
Abdominal bracing is a great way to train the body to lift and move while keeping your spine in a safe neutral position. I’m big believer in abdominal bracing for protecting the lower back and teach it to all my personal training clients. To brace properly first stand up strait, pull your shoulders back and keep your lower back in a neutral position. A neutral position is when your pelvis is not tilted too far forward or back. Tighten up your abdominals but don’t pull them in or stick them out just contract them maintaining the neutral position.
A big part of not hurting your elbow or back while shoveling is to follow a preventative program before you go out. Check out the video I did about treating and preventing tennis elbow. It is loaded with great tips.
Make sure you watch Stuart McGill’s video on the big three exercises for the lower back. Stuart is one of the leading authorities on lower back pain. If you suffer from back pain you have to read The Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance by Stuart McGill. After reading this book, it changed how I deal with back problems.
Winter just started so be careful out there. I hope these tips will help you shovel snow pain free.
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Best – Mike Cola
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