Tips & Tricks – Tis The Season: Snow-Shoveling Injuries Appear Early
December 29, 2011
Dr. Peretz offers simple tips to get you through the winter without injury:
1. Warm up before you dig in: Youll do your back a favor if you warm up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or any strenuous activity. Get your blood moving with a brisk walk, jogging or marching in place, or running up the stairs. Then stretch your lower back and hamstrings the large muscles in the back of the thigh with some gentle stretching exercises.
2. Use the right shovel: The basic snow shovel hasnt changed much since it was invented over 100 years ago. Hand grips are often lacking and the shovel length is typically too short for most people, forcing the user to bend and twist while heaving snow. Also, the traditional steel shovel is heavy, adding to the weight – as much as 20 pounds per shovelful of snow – you are lifting. Newer, ergonomic snow shovels take some of the effort out of snow removal. They are typically made of lighter materials such as plastic or lightweight aluminum and feature a curved handle or adjustable handle length to reduce or eliminate bending.
3. Use proper shoveling technique: Whenever possible, push the snow aside instead of lifting it. If you must lift, follow these guidelines:
- Bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles – not your back!
- Avoid twisting; pivot your whole body to change direction.
- Do not throw snow over your shoulder.
- Keep each load light.
- If you must lift a full shovel, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle.
- Walk to a new location to deposit the snow; do not reach or toss.
4. Clear early and often: Its easier to clear a light layer than to wait until all the snow has fallen and its packed and heavy. In deep snow, remove a few inches off the top at a time rather than attempting to shovel the full depth at once.
5. Stay on your feet: Wear shoes or boots with good treads and spread sand, rock salt, or kitty litter on your sidewalk or driveway to increase traction and reduce the likelihood of slipping.
6. Take it easy: Take a break every 10-15 minutes; stand up straight, walk around, and drink water to avoid dehydration and overheating. Listen to your body; when it says “stop” STOP.
7. Consider a snow blower: When used correctly, a snow blower puts less stress on your lower back than shoveling. Use the power of your legs to push the snow blower while keeping your back straight and knees bent.