When I move, lift, or place a heavy awkward object I rarely get hurt. Raising a 20' green hemlock 8 x 8 as a temporary electric pole; placing 24' 2 x 12 rafters; tilting up a wall section. It’s the diddly stuff that gets me. When involved in a task where the odds of getting seriously hurt are high, you pay good attention. The awkward reach, the missed step, and the fall that catch you unaware are the things that leave you in pain.

Shoveling snow is a category unto itself. In most ways, I like to shovel. It’s a focused task that yields quick results. In addition there’s the camaraderie. Waving to the passing plow truck and to your neighbors with their tractors and snow blowers. You can silently regale in your moral superiority as a hand shoveler. That superiority fades pretty quickly when you tweak your back. Given how frequently I hurt my back shoveling you’d think I’d pay better attention to technique, or skip shoveling altogether. That’s not the case.

No matter how I hurt my back it makes building difficult. Fifteen years ago while working to resolve lower back pain, stretches were suggested. The suggestion was easy to take since the benefit was immediate. Ever since then my days start with stretches. For the bulk of that time I did a series of stretches before getting out of bed. The past four years I’ve moved to a group of stretches I do on the floor. The series takes twenty minutes.

When I tweak my back during the workday, I’ll first take a few steps, focus on some deep breathing and assess. Next I find a clear spot, put down a drop cloth or piece of cardboard, and do a short series of stretches. I’ll lie on my back, knees flexed, feet flat on the floor. Keeping my lower back flat on the floor I draw one knee to my chest for a count of thirty. I’ll do this with each knee three times. While still on the floor and paying attention to keep my lower back flat, I’ll next bring both knees to my chest for a count of sixty. That gets repeated three times. It’s often more effective than ibuprofen.

Though I refer to my regimen as stretching it would be more correct to call it exercise. Back exercises require nothing more than a space to lie down. The responsibility for following through is your own. Being able to take a positive step when feeling hurt is hopeful. For lower back pain I’m a fan of, and have had success with, The Cox Exercises. They’ll pop right up with an online search.