The HeatTrak Homeowner Blog
Every year, thousands of people injure themselves while shoveling snow out of their driveways, and a large portion of those injuries are sustained on the back. The constant bending over, raising and lowering of the spine, and the effects of cold weather on your muscles all contribute to winter back injuries. Additionally, lack of proper snow shoveling technique, sudden activity after a routinely sedentary lifestyle, and use of less-than-optimal shovels all make back problems worse.
The most common types of winter back problems
While shoveling snow can lead to many kinds of back problems, these four are the most common:
1. Lower back pain and strain
How it happens: Poor posture during shoveling, where the back is rounded when going down for the next load of snow, is a key cause of lower back pain. This posture minimizes the use of your stronger "spinal erector" muscles and puts the pressure on weaker "stabilizer" muscles, and over-stretches your spine's supporting ligaments.
How to prevent it: Instead of lifting snow, use the shovel to push it to the side whenever possible. But if you have to lift a shovel full of snow, squatting with and lifting from your knees will decrease the stress on your back. Keep the shovel near your body and move to the edge of the driveway instead of hurling the snow.
2. Herniated discs
How it happens: A herniated, or "slipped," disc occurs whenever a soft, inter-vertebral disc moves out of position and presses or pinches up against a nerve. The major cause of herniating a disc while shoveling snow is rotating or twisting the back instead of making straight up and down motions. And the heavier the snow load, the greater the chances of an injury.
How to prevent it: Always face your hips and shoulders towards the object you intend to lift. Avoid twisting your back to move the snow to its new location: instead, pivot your whole body to face the new direction. For a minor investment, you can buy an ergonomically designed shovel that uses a bent handle to de-stress your back. This type of shovel also prevents your needing to bend as far. Look for an adjustable handle and lightweight material as well.
3. Muscular back pain
How it happens: Although muscular back pain overlaps with lower back pain and can come in tandem with disc herniation, it can apply to many back muscles. Cold outdoor temperatures can slow blood circulation and make muscles more likely to cramp, over-tire, or experience spasms.
How to prevent it: Warm up with exercises and stretches before going outdoors to shovel snow. Also, warm up in a well-heated home and be sure to eat a hot breakfast. And again: too much bending and twisting will make the condition more severe.
4. Fractures, bruising, and torn tendons/ligaments
How it happens: You can also injure your back by slipping and falling on concrete (or other hard surfaces) while shoveling snow. This can lead to a broken back, where vertebrae are actually fractured. It can also dislocate vertebrae and tear at tendons and ligaments. Additionally, bones can actually be "bruised" upon impact, causing much pain and a long-term "bad back." Injury of the coccyx, or "tail bone," is especially common during a fall since it is at the end of the vertebral column. Such an injury is serious, and you should not delay to get immediate medical attention should it occur.
How to prevent it: Make sure to wear shoes or boots with good treads to minimize injuries from slipping. Spreading a traction-enhancing substance like sand, rock salt, or kitty litter on your sidewalk or driveway will also reduce the likelihood of slipping on the ice while you shovel.
No-one really enjoys shoveling snow. But if you follow our safety tips above, at least you’ll be shoveling smart.
When it comes to owning a home, driveways are kind of a big deal. They’re one of the first things people see when they arrive, and they’re generally used multiple times a day. That’s why destroying your asphalt or cement driveway is a major blow to your property value and something you want to avoid.
Here are 7 things that you’re doing to cause damage to your concrete or asphalt driveway without even knowing it and what you can do to avoid them.
#1 Poor Installation
Just because you had a professional install your driveway doesn’t mean they did a good job. Problems can arise if the foundation was not packed in properly or inferior materials were used in place of quality ones.
What to do: The best way to avoid these problems is to thoroughly research your contractor before hiring him or go with a recommendation from a friend or relative who has already used this service satisfactorily.
#2 Heavy Loads
Heavy trucks such as those used for construction, moving, or travel (RVs) weigh a lot, and if they are constantly sitting on your concrete driveway, the weight will cause damage. It is therefore recommended not to park these vehicles on your driveway for extended periods of time.
What to do: Opt for a paid parking lot or the street if this is an option.
#3 Studded Tires
Studded tires or snow tires with spikes/tracks are very useful for getting around the snowy streets safely. Unfortunately, they’re also great for making holes in your driveway. Asphalt driveways are particularly susceptible to this type of damage, but even concrete driveways will see wear and tear if they aren’t in pristine condition.
What to do: Keep driveways sealed properly, and avoid repetitive drives with these spikes on your driveway.
#4 Rock Salt
If you want your driveway to last, stay away from rock salt. Driveways, especially concrete driveways, suffer more damage from this substance than the comparative good they bring. While rock salt will thaw the ice and snow in temperatures as frigid as 20°F (-6.67°C), the whole melting and refreezing process wrecks havoc on your driveway material.
Aside from accelerating the rate of decay within the metal components of your driveway, the ice that thaws from rock salt seeps into your concrete, freezes, and corrodes the cement from the inside out. In short, this is a bad material for your driveway so avoid it at all costs.
What to do: If you feel you must use salt, make sure to remove all the snow, ice, and standing water from the surface once everything has melted. Then remove all excess salt from the driveway so it doesn’t further damage the surface. But your best bet would be to look for more effective, less damaging snow removal options.
#5 Shoveling Driveways
Shoveling driveway snow can actually damage your concrete or asphalt driveway. The metal blades that most people use scratch away at the surface, destroying your driveway with each snowfall.
What to do: Instead, use plastic shovels to minimize the damage, and use caution when shoveling snow. Stop a half an inch (1.27 cm) before the surface, and don’t dig down with sharp blows into the ice.
Water is one of the worst enemies for a healthy driveway. If it pools in close proximity, it can cause the entire bedrock to become saturated and deteriorate. Rainwater can wash away the soil beneath the driveway and cause it to sink or slope.
What to do: If you haven’t installed your driveway yet, have the contractor put it in a location away from where water drains. In the same vein, be sure to remove snow and ice from your driveway as soon as possible so that the melted ice doesn’t cause damage.
#7 Tree Roots
Trees are a beautiful addition to your property, but if they're too close to the driveway, roots can destroy the entire project from down below. The roots push against the foundation of the driveway as they grow, forcing the cement to give way. This results in surface cracks along your concrete driveway.
What to do: Fortunately, surrounding your driveway with tree root barriers can help prevent this problem from happening.