Ah, winter. The thrill of sledding, the joy of skating … and the dread of shoveling.
Snow shoveling is one of the most common causes of back injuries during the winter season. That said, it is possible to stay pain-free while making your property pedestrian friendly.
Below, are six snow shoveling tips that will keep you safe as you face-off against your powdery nemesis:
1) Warm Up
It may seem a little odd since warming up is typically associated with sports and exercise, but shoveling (as you well know) is a serious strain on the body. In fact, cold, tight muscles are more susceptible to injury than warmed-up muscles.
To warm up and get the blood circulating, take a short walk or perform any kind of full-body movement. Also, do some gentle stretching to loosen up the hamstrings and muscles in the low back.
2) Pick the Right Tool to Help You Succeed
An ergonomic snow shovel is an ideal way to keep some of the strain of that heavy snow at bay. Choose a shovel that has a curved or adjustable handle and is made of a lightweight material. By using this type of shovel, the amount of bending you do and the weight of the snow you’re shoveling can be kept to a minimum.
3) Work Smart, Not Hard
First, always try to push as much snow as you can off to the side. Then, when actual shoveling becomes necessary, follow these tips:
- Bend at the hips (not the back) and push your chest out. Then, bend your knees and lift the shovel with your leg muscles while keeping your back straight
- Keep the load light and don’t attempt to lift a shovelful that’s too much for you
- If you do have a large shovelful, grab the shovel by the base of the handle—or as far down as comfortably possible—while the other hand remains on the handle
- Avoid twisting your back to move the snow and turn around to face the direction you want the snow to go
- Don’t extend your arms to throw snow; keep the load as close to your body and your center of gravity as possible
4) Remember Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Shoveling smaller amounts over a longer period of time drastically reduces the amount of strain shoveling has on the body. If possible, remove the snow over the course of a few days rather than plowing through it in a few hours.
Additionally, if the snow is deep, remove a few inches off of the top at a time instead of attempting the full depth at once. It is also recommended that you take a 10- to 15-minute break when you start to feel worn down.
5) Have Traction to Avoid Ending Up in Traction
Snow and ice can make shoveling a slippery hazard, resulting in a fall. Wear shoes or boots with good tread and spread sand, rock salt or kitty litter to increase traction and reduce the risk of slipping.
6) Don’t Shovel
Easier said than done. However, using a snow blower can significantly reduce strain on the back (as long as you use your leg muscles to push).
By keeping these handy tips in mind, you can steer clear of pain and strain during cold, snowy months.