Shoveling Snow 101

  • January 8, 2018

It is winter so snow will eventually be on the ground. This means it is time to take care of yourself and avoid those snow shoveling injuries.

To begin with, make sure to have good footwear. Slipping on snow/ice is hazardous to your health, and a common issue leading to broken bones and other injuries.

Next, remember snow shoveling is a cardiovascular activity. Every year, nearly 800 people suffer a heart attack shoveling snow.  Shoveling snow will place an increased strain on your heart, especially if you are not in shape. Other associated factors include: holding ones breath, known heart disease, and the cold weather. It is ok to take breaks to rest your body. Or better yet, hire someone young to do the work for you.

Third, don’t attempt to tackle large snowfalls all at once. Consider addressing the snow in smaller chunks, which will lighten the load upon the body. Another way to address the strain involves, pushing vs lifting the snow. Better yet, use a snow blower. However, when you do lift, keep the load manageable and close to the body. Keeping the load close to your body reduces the overall strain, especially on your back. The back muscles fatigue more quickly as you hold the load further away from your body. Maybe use a smaller shovel, thus smaller loads. What is more important, getting done a few minutes faster or injuring your back?

The biggest and most important issue with shoveling involves the manner in which a person scoops and throws the snow. It may be easier to scoop, twist, and throw without thinking, however, that is not best for the body. This tends to be the fastest way to a back injury. It is also a story I hear several times every winter from individuals who injured themselves shoveling. Instead, try keeping the back in a “neutral” position. Scoop and lift from in front of you, facing the direction you wish to throw.

Finally, if you do become injured, please do not wait to seek treatment. The fastest way to recovery is dealing with the injury within the first few weeks, not taking the wait and see approach.

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