Does What Kind of Snow Shovel You Use Affect How Badly Your Back Hurts After?

A chiropractor weighs in

Snow Shovel

An aluminum shovel. A square-nosed shovel. A snow scoop shovel. Uh, and even a snow pusher with wheels. If you’ve been to your local big-box home improvement store lately, you might have noticed that the snow shovel selection is almost as daunting as that foot of snow in your driveway.

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But according to chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC, when it comes to back pain, the type of shovel doesn’t matter as much as how it’s used.

There’s three components, in general, that cause back pain when shoveling. One is the repetitive nature of the shoveling. One is your ergonomic position of how you hold the shovel, and the other one is the weight of the snow on the end of the shovel.

“There’s three components that cause back pain when shoveling, in general,” Dr. Bang explains. “One is the repetitive nature of the shoveling. One is your ergonomic position of how you hold the shovel, and the other one is the weight on the end of the shovel.”

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How to master proper shoveling technique

How high you lift snow with your shovel and how far away it’s thrown determines the amount of strain put on your lower back, Dr. Bang says. Limiting the lift and throw will translate into fewer back aches.

Research shows that squatting a little bit, and placing the feet farther apart, can reduce the strain on low back muscles, he notes. Squatting lower brings the shovel closer to the ground so snow won’t have to be lifted as high.

So what kind of shovel should you buy?

As far as what shovel-type is the best for your back, Dr. Bang says research hasn’t been done to determine which kind is superior. But generally, any shovel that’s lower to the ground and reduces the distance the snow has to be lifted and thrown is a good idea.

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“A good rule of thumb, based on the research, is that the less we raise the snow up, the less far we throw it away, the less strain there will be on your back,” he says.

And lastly, be mindful not to twist or jerk to toss a heavy load of snow. These movements should be avoided whenever possible, Dr. Bang says, because they strain the discs in the low back and could cause discs to herniate or rupture.

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