Physio: Digging out of the snow can cause lower back pain

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries health care professionals see.

With the recent snowfall in the last few weeks, I’m sure you have been out shovelling.

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries health care professionals see.

As we age, the discs which separate the vertebrae in the spine can become narrowed.

The ligaments in the spine that were once taut and supportive can become lax, leaving us more susceptible to the shearing and compressive forces that are placed on the back when we are bending and lifting.

Basic lifting techniques can go a long way in reducing the frequency and severity of low back pain episodes, especially with a physically demanding activity like shoveling.

Here are some shoveling techniques that may help you.

Bend at the knees and hips instead of bending at the back.

By keeping the hips and knees bent and the low back straight there is a big reduction in the shearing forces placed on the lumbar spine which may help decrease the risk of injury.

This also allows the larger muscles like the glutes and quads to do most of the heavy lifting.

This is helpful while shoveling out the driveway as the smaller muscles in the back will fatigue much quicker than the larger muscles.

Lift smaller loads, more often.  Every load that you lift places compressive force on the spine including the low back.

By lifting smaller loads there is less compressive force placed on the spine and less strain placed on the muscles and ligaments surrounding the lumbar spine.

When lifting, keep the load close to the body.

By reducing the horizontal distance between your body and the load you are reducing the compressive and shearing forces placed on the spine and therefore reducing the risk of injury.

Smaller and ergonomically designed shovels may be more helpful in this case compared to the oversized shovels which we commonly use to get the job done faster.

Give yourself plenty of time to shovel out the driveway or walkway.

Many injuries occur when we are rushing to get to work or school and we don’t give ourselves the proper amount of time to warm up and take mini breaks while shoveling.

Shoveling is a very physically demanding activity that can cause injuries the same way playing sports or working out can.

While lifting, you want to engage your deep spinal stabilizing muscles or “inner core muscles.”

These muscles are located close to the spine and help provide segmental stability to the vertebrae.

The deep spinal stabilizing muscles consist of the multifidus, quadratus lumborum, transversus abdominus, and internal obliques.

These muscles are often neglected in many workout routines as we tend to work the larger muscles of the abdominals.

Strengthening exercises of the inner core unit are very important for the prevention and rehabilitation of low back injuries.

Physiotherapists can help teach you how to activate and use these muscles effectively to maximize your core stability and reduce your risk of injury.

For more information on this topic you are invited to attend a free lecture on Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at our Glenmore clinic, 202-437 Glenmore Rd.

RSVP to 250-762-6313 to reserve a seat.

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