Finding the best snow shovel to avoid back pain could result in big relief for those digging deep in the snow.
And a University of Calgary researcher just might have the answer. Research shows that a bent shaft shovel reduces the load on the lower back by 16 per cent.
"I think that's a pretty substantial reduction," said biomedical engineering graduate student Ryan Lewinson, who conducted the study. "Over the course of shovelling an entire driveway that probably would add up to something pretty meaningful."
Nearly 12,000 individuals in the United States are treated in emergency departments each year for snow shovelling-related injuries, according to the university, and the most common injury is reported in the lower-back.
The study found a bent shaft shovel is better in the lifting part of the snow shoveling process and it requires less bending when used.
"We were primarily interested in looking at lower back flexion to see how much bending people were doing when using one type of snow shovel or the other," said Lewinson in a statement. "What we found is that when you use the bent shaft snow shovel, you don't bend over quite as much."
While bent shaft shovels are commonly available, little research has been conducted to study their influence on the lower back, says the report, which was published in a recent edition of Applied Ergonomics.
Eight healthy individuals participated in the study, which Lewinson conducted as an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa, and each completed a simulated snow-lifting task in a bio-mechanics laboratory.
The study only looked at the lifting component of shovelling, which means a regular shovel might be better for other tasks such as pushing or throwing snow.
"I have each type of shovel right now," says Lewinson.
"Our study found the bent shovel is better for lifting, which I think is one of the most important components to shovelling snow, so I've been using the bent shovel more often. It's possible that the straight shovel could be better for other aspects of shovelling, but we'd need further research to determine that."
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