Well, winter is back and it looks like it might be here to stay. Over the last week since our first major snowfall, I have already treated many people with back pain as a direct result of shoveling snow. I thought it would be appropriate to go over a few tips to help you successfully shovel snow without hurting yourself.
1. Warm up Your Muscles – Shoveling snow can be a significant cardio activity requiring strength, endurance and flexibility. Most people underestimate how much work is actually involved and just jump straight to the task. Instead, do some bending and stretching first, get your blood flowing… THEN go outside!
2. Dress in Layers – Even if it is minus 20 outside, once you start working, you’ll generate a lot of heat. So if you can peel off one layer at a time, you can continue to work without overheating or getting too cold.
3. Drink Water – Your body and your muscles move and work much better if you are hydrated, so drink before, during and after your snow shoveling task.
4. Shovel in Shifts – If snow is falling heavily, shovel every few hours, instead of doing the whole thing at once. Six inches of snow is a lot harder to move than one inch!
5. Use the Right Tools – Most shovels these days are made of plastic – which is great because they are so much lighter than the old steel versions. Also realize that some shovels are designed for pushing snow, and others are designed for scooping. It’s a great idea to have both types and use them both. You could first push the snow into a pile with the pushing shovel, and then scoop it out of the way with the scooping shovel.
6. Avoid Simultaneous Lifting and Twisting – Each action significantly increases the force and strain on your lower back, but doing them both at the same time produces exponentially more force, and makes you very susceptible to injury! Use your knees, keep the load close to your body, and take smaller bites!
It is simply not possible to avoid injury in all cases, but following some of these tips will help to decrease the risk. Please be safe and careful this winter!