How To Avoid Back Pain This Winter | Breakaway PT
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Snow And Back Pain

Snow And Back Pain

The snow is falling, and my back is aching…

The snow has been falling, and the flakes have accumulated to some days already of a Winter Wonderland this year!

Maryland weather can be hard to predict; with one day that is 60+ degrees outside and then the next is 10 inches of snow on the ground.


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Don’t FALL Into Fall!

Having such a good amount of snow (for Marylanders) in one day presented all of us a major job…cleaning all the snow off our cars, driveways, walkways and more!

There are lots of things to consider when you need to shovel snow, remove it from your car OR even when you are travelling someone on a snowy day (there were a lot of people that were stuck in their cars during a recent storm in our area).

Some of the first things to consider are being prepared from a clothing standpoint. Even if you are heading into the office on a snowy day or potential snowy day around here, make sure you are prepared!

How To Be Prepared For Snow Days!

  • Snow boots – there is nothing worse than having to tromp through 10 inches of snow in your cute work shoes or even tennis shoes for that matter as they will be soaked in minutes.
    • Bring your snow boots with you just in case
  • Winter jacket – my oldest son is the worst offender of this as he tells me that he is always NOT cold. He doesn’t want to take a jacket to school because it’s too warm in the classroom and then will tell me on cold days that they have indoor recess. 
    • When bad weather is on the radar, make sure that you have your winter jacket in case you need to stand out in it to clean off your car. 
  • Waterproof gloves – I really suffered with the wrong decision on this one during our last storm. I always keep an extra set of just cotton gloves in my car just in case anyone needs a pair. Great idea, except when you need to spend 30+ minutes cleaning off your car and walkways to have the gloves soaked before you know it.
    • The last thing anyone would want is risking frostbite with having soaked hands from cleaning off snow or ice. 
  • Hat – we all know that our Moms always told us that the most amount of heat escapes from our head. If you need to spend any time outside, then a hat is essential to keep your body warm.

Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Winter

Get Your Car Ready For Winter

Now that your body is prepared for the winter weather that may surprise you, let’s get your vehicle ready for the cold. Prep your car with all the necessary items:

  • Blanket – this is an essential to always keep in the trunk of your car, just in case. I aim to keep at least one in my trunk and then have a few extras floating around the car in case I have all the kids with me during a storm.
  • Bottled water – you never know when an emergency situation may arise and having water on hand is essential. Keep a couple of bottles in your trunk just in case you need them!
  • Non-perishable food – granola bars, trail mix, beef jerky, dried fruit are all great things to have in your car just in case you get stuck on the highway for too long.
  • Car charger – keeping a phone charger in your car can make a huge difference if you get stuck somewhere and need to reach out for some help. Our phones always loose all their battery in the least opportune time, so having one on hand will never be a bad decision. 
  • First aid kit – this is an essential to have on hand at any point in time, but especially when there is a snow storm and you may get stranded. A basic kit will do the trick to save you in a pinch. 
  • Snow scraper – it’s difficult to clean off your car without one of these and you may have to get creative if you can’t find one. I tend to leave mine floating around the car all year so that I don’t forget to put it back in during our winter months.
  • Gas in your car – keep your gas tank nearly full to avoid any ice in the fuel lines and tank.
  • Windshield wiper fluid – this is essential in the winter months as our windshields get dirty almost daily with driving. There is also a winter wiper fluid mixture that will contain additives to prevent freezing.
  • Tire pressure – check this before a storm as it may fluctuate with the winter weather 
  • Windshield wipers – make sure they are pushed up on your car to prevent them from being stuck to your windshield.
  • Antifreeze – this is important in the winter months to make sure that your radiator is working properly
  • Car service – always a good item to check off your list before the winter weather arrives to make sure that all parts of you car are in working condition 

Avoiding Back Pain This Winter

Avoid Winter Back Pain

Now that your body and car are prepped for any winter weather, we need to talk about how to NOT hurt your back and protect your whole body when you need to shovel all the snow, push it off your car (it’s a law to remove all the snow even from the top of your vehicle before driving), walkways, driveways and more.

  • Warm-up – this is important as shoveling snow is a workout for your body
    • Jumping jacks, marching in place, arm circles are just a few ideas to get your muscles pumping and the blood circulating before you start your activity
  • Dress in layers – you want to insulate your body to keep it protected from the cold and always having an outside layer that is waterproof
  • Drink water – we feel less thirsty in the cold temperature, but your body needs the water to be able to properly regulate our heat
    • Hydrate before you head out into the snowy weather and take water breaks
  • Use salt or sand – make sure that the ground is not slick as you are trying to clear it to reduce your risk of falling
  • Pick an ergonomic shovel – it’s impressive that these are now readily available to help
    • Your shovel should be big enough that you don’t have to bend over to be able to push any snow to protect your back
      • Stand your shovel up putting the bottom on the ground and the handle should be around the height of your elbow or chest for it to be properly fit for YOU!
    • Grips for your hand – durable and strong grasp for your hands (especially since you will be wearing gloves or mittens)
    •  Shovel length that is adjustable – this will allow you to change the length depending upon if you are pushing the snow or trying to pick it up off the ground to move it
    • Metal end of the shovel blade – this really helps to remove all the snow and even can help with ice that is stuck to the ground needing to be removed
    • Lightweight shovel – the last thing you need to weight you down if your shovel when you have a ton of snow to remove.
      • 3 – 4 pounds or less is perfect in weight for your shovel
    • Curved or S shaped shaft – this will allow you to have the shovel close to your body as needed and help you minimize bending
  • Bend your knees – if you have to lift up the snow, make sure that you are lifting with your legs and NOT your back
    • Think about squats to easily get the best mechanics with bending your knees
    • If squats are not working for you, try putting one foot in front of the other as you bend your knees more in a lunge stance to protect your back
  • Keep the shovel light with snow -don’t overload your shovel and be mindful when the snow is wet as it will get heavy really fast
  • Keep your feet hip width apart to provide your body a good base of support
  • Keep your back straight – this is the best way to protect your back
    • Prevent excessive twisting movements of your spine as this is the recipe for injury
  • Walk with your shovel to where you will be dumping the snow, preventing twisting and throwing heavy amounts of snow
  • Keep the snow close to your body – the farther out your shovel is that is full of snow, the more strain that is put along your spine
  • Use your abdominals – remind your body to engage, contract and work your abdominals to prevent straining your lower back
  • Shovel multiple times throughout the day when it’s a big snowstorm
  •  Take breaks – take a quick, 30 second stretch, grab a drink of water, take a lap around your newly shoveled around and give your muscles a rest about every 5 minutes of shoveling

When Cleaning Off Your Car, There Are A Few Extra Things To Consider

Clearing Your Car Of Snow

  • Turn on your defrosters to full blast to warm-up your vehicle and get things melting
  • Open your passenger door to be able to step-up and be closer to your roof to remove the snow
    • Lean on your taller friends to help you reach the top of the car OR a stepstool can also help you get closer to the roof
  • Move the snow from your roof to the front, back and sides of your car knowing that it could be a lot of snow to remove and can’t all be pushed in one direction 

All the winter weather tips are good to keep in mind, but the most important is to listen to your body when shoveling snow.

If you find that your body and back took the brunt of the storm, then don’t wait for it to keep hurting all winter long. Get the help that your body deserves!

Call us for a free Breakthrough visit at 410-721-6333 to sit down with our movement experts and find out how we can make a difference in your back, your body and your life.

In the meantime, enjoy the winter wonderland!

Shaina Clemons

Shaina Clemons

Shaina is the founder and owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.  She received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore, along with a Bachelor's degree from Towson University.   Shaina is an Ironman triathlete, with a love of all sports. Exercise is her passion, which plays an important role in both her personal and professional life.  In her free time, Shaina enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.  Shaina's love of snowboarding led her to her career choice many years ago. 
Shaina Clemons

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