With the latest winter storm leaving us with a fresh batch of white stuff, a lot of folks at the office have been asking about how to move that stuff around without hurting their backs. According to the Journal of Emergency Medicine, more than 11,000 adults and children report to the emergency room each year for snow-shoveling related injuries. Between 1991 and 2006 more than 195,000 snow shoveling injuries reported to the ER.

When I was growing up, there was only one kind of snow shovel. It looked something like this:

The basic ergonomics of proper snow shoveling technique are really no different than that for any other activity. The essential elements are alignment, posture, and breathing.

When shoveling, the tendency is to curl your back as you bend forward. We call this lumbar kyphosis, and it is a bad position in which to load the spine. Instead, focus on keeping your lower back nice and curved in the opposite direction. Bend your knees deeply, and lift with your legs. Breath out smoothly as you exert.

The problem with these models is that they tend to force you to bend over more in order to get to the snow:

Now, your neighbors may watch you and think you are some kind of kook, breathing and squatting like a yogi, but you know what is even more square than a unorthodox snow shoveler? A herniated lumbar disc that has you on your back and out of work for 6 weeks. Right? Good.

Now a word about equipment. And that word is, splurge.

In other words, spend the extra few bucks on a decent snow shovel that helps you protect your back.

Curvilinear designs like the one above help to reduce the amount of flexion, or forward bending, necessary to shovel. This takes strain off the lower back. They are slightly more expensive but well worth the additional cost.

Snow shovel technology has made some advances in recent years that speak to the fundamental problems with the action of shoveling snow as it pertains to the human spine.

Of course, you can ignore our advice and use a cheap shovel poorly. You’re not going to hear us chiropractors complain. You folks make us a lot of money! But seriously, we’d rather you use a chiropractor to keep your already healthy spine in great condition rather than bringing in a broken and misused vertebral column for major bodywork. So, to review:







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