5 Spine Protecting Tips When Raking Or Shoveling

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: November 22, 2021

Woman Shoveling her Parking Lot

We’re in that in-between season between fall and winter where the weather can’t always make up its mind. Gusty winds and rain can bring autumn leaves down in a hurry, and some parts of the state already have snow on the ground, which means many Minnesotans are now reaching for their rakes or snow shovels. Although their mechanics vary a little, raking and shoveling can be very hard on your spine and lead to injuries if you’re not careful, which is why we want to share some tips for preventing back problems if you need to do either activity. Below, you’ll find five tips for protecting your spine when raking of shoveling.

How To Avoid Back Injuries When Raking Or Shoveling

If you’re headed outside to clear leaves or ice, keep these tips in mind, otherwise Dr. Sinicropi and his team may be seeing you in the not-so-distant future.

  1. Face Your Target – Whether moving snow or leaves, make sure you’re facing your target. If you’re twisting to reach the object you’re trying to clear, you’ll be putting extra pressure on your spine. Face your target and shuffle your feet so that you’re not twisting your trunk when moving objects from one place to another.
  2. Light Loads – Don’t try to move a huge clump of snow or a massive pile of wet and heavy leaves all at once. Keep the load on your rake or your shovel light, otherwise you can throw out your back or pull a muscle when trying to move it. Strive for more smaller loads instead of a few really heavy ones. Your spine can better handle more easy movements as opposed to fewer strenuous movements, so keep the load on your shovel or rake light!
  3. Stay Warm – Our muscles work better when they are warm, so dress for the occasion. We know that physical activity can lead you to sweat, but you can always remove layers if you get warm, but you can’t always say the same if you don’t wear enough layers to begin with. Dress appropriately if you’ll be raking or shoveling, and take breaks inside to warm up if it’s extra cold outside.
  4. Ease Into Activity – Similarly, your spinal muscles function best when they are eased into activity, so don’t just get up off the couch and start raking or shoveling snow. Take a couple minutes to stretch and prepare your muscles for upcoming activity. This will allow them to transition from an inactive to an active state, which reduces your risk of a cramp or strain. Also consider taking breaks along the way to give your back a break, because raking and shoveling can be hard on your spine.
  5. Stay Close To Your Body – Finally, when you’re raking or shoveling, keep the tool close to your body. If you stretch far to pull leaves or fill your shovel with snow, you’ll be at a heightened risk for a strain when you start to lift or drag that object. When your arms are extended far from your body, your arms and your back bear the brunt of this strain. If you keep your arms closer to your body and strive for shorter lifts and pulls, there’s less stress on your spine, and your knees and hips can help handle the stress. Don’t reach or overextend when you’re raking or shoveling, as this can put added strain on your spine and expose it to injury.

If you suffer a back injury when raking or shoveling, or you want a doctor to help treat a different spinal injury, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today.

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