Back Out of Trouble This Winter, Take the Strain Out of Snow Clearing

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Private Osteopathic Clinic, The Guildhall Practice issues ergonomic health advice to prevent physical injury during snow season. The recent snowfalls will have seen many people picking up back injuries as they battle to dig out the car or clear the drive.

The recent snowfalls will have seen many people picking up back injuries as they battle to dig out the car or clear the drive. We’ve all done it! You pick up a shovel or spade and begin digging away as quickly as you can.


Failure to take just a few minutes preparation can result in a range of problems particularly for the lower lumbar region of the body. This can result in muscular stiffness, painful inflammation, and in some cases quite serious injury. As with any physical activity it’s best to warm up the muscles with some simple gentle stretches involving both the lower back and legs.

Everyone needs to be ready for winter and this includes having a well designed and light snow shovel to hand, to limit the physical strain on the body. Ideally the blade should be plastic and the length of the handle should only have you slightly bent forward!

Ensure you’re wearing the right clothing so you can move comfortably and keep your muscles warm. Take a good look at what you need to clear and go about it in an organised fashion. With icy or compacted snow apply grit or salt and wait until the ice breaks up before clearing. If the snow is deep take the top portion first then dig deeper.


The biomechanics of shovelling require you to bend, twist and lift!

For this very reason you need to take regular breaks and take things in stages to reduce muscle fatigue. More importantly your technique needs to be right!

Only load your shovel with an appropriate amount of snow and take into account the strain of lifting a weight becomes more significant the further it is away from your body. Always keep the heaviest part as close to your centre of gravity as possible. One hand should be close to the shovel blade and never overreach when throwing the snow, but alternate between sides and use your legs as much as possible to balance strain on the muscles.


Be sensible and do only what you feel you can in one go – if it’s a particularly big area then do another area tomorrow!

If you develop a sustained ache in the lumbar spine you’ll recognise this is as being muscle fatigue. Simple muscular tension will respond to warmth. If you feel any sharp localised pain in addition to the aching and stiffness this will almost certainly be down to inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen especially in gel form can help reduce inflammation along with Biofreeze or paracetamol.

If your symptoms persist then you should consider consulting a physical therapist such as an Osteopath, Physiotherapist or Chiropractor for treatment, or your GP for stronger medication.

For more information or advice on effective treatments for back pain contact The Guildhall Practice, Birmingham.

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Andrew Leask
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