The Back Story

Home » Seasonal » Tips for Shoveling Snow Safely

Tips for Shoveling Snow Safely

Faisel Zaman, MD and Aaron Swalberg, DPT

Much of the country conshovelimagetinues to be covered in a blanket of snow, and every snowstorm brings another round of shoveling.

THE GOOD NEWS Snow shoveling can be considered a great form of exercise if performed properly.

THE BAD NEWS If not performed properly or without proper preparation is can be a source of injury. According to a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine there are an estimated 11,500 snow shovel-related injuries in the United States each year.

The most common injuries from snow shoveling include soft tissue injuries such as low back pain or shoulder pain. Other injuries include traumatic injuries from slip and falls or heart problems.

On Average a shovel full of wet snow weighs 16 lbs, that means one can end up lifting about 200 lbs per minute or 2000 lbs (one ton!) in just 10 minutes of shoveling!

PREVENTION (things that can, and should be done before shoveling snow)

  • If you are inactive and have a history of heart problems, talk to your physician before you take on snow shoveling.
  • REGULAR EXERCISE AND FLEXIBILITY (especially flexibility of the hips) can help prevent most injuries.

PREPARATION (what you can do immediately before the task)

  • Just like any exercise program WARM UP BEFORE
  • STAY HYDRATED (proper hydration is essential to stay warm and prevent injury
  • PROPER LAYERED CLOTHING (allows for quick adjustments to temperature)
  • PROPER SHOE WEAR

DURING

  • Decide where you are placing the snow beforehand
    •  Helpful hint: (winter weather often exaggerates the cracks in the sidewalk or driveway making the shovel stop quickly, especially when cracks are covered with snow.  Shoveling at an angle to the crack may allow the shovel to slide over small or moderate sized cracks preventing that quick jolt from the shovel stopping abruptly, helping to minimize injury.)
    • PUSHING snow in manageable quantities is recommended over throwing
    • If you must throw snow:
      • AVOID BENDING AND TWISTING THE SPINE
        • “Keep your toes with your nose”
  • CONTRACT TRUNK MUSCLES
  • SQUAT WITH YOUR LEGS APART
  • KEEP THE SHOVEL AND SNOW CLOSE TO YOUR BODY
  • LIFT WITH KNEES BENT AND BACK STRAIGHT
  • STEP IN THE DIRECTION YOU ARE THROWING
  • USE THE PROPER TOOL FOR THE JOB
    • Just as you would not use a screwdriver to drive a nail, use shovels designed to push the snow to push it and shovels designed to throw snow to throw it.
    • Just like sharpening a saw you can cut the work considerably by fine tune your shovels
      • Proper handle lengths and design for your body
      • Avoid snow collecting on the shovel by waxing with ski or car wax or even light amounts of cooking spray can help
      • PACE YOURSELF, if you are not accustomed to regular activity such as shoveling snow, take your time, start slowly, and break it up into sections if needed.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: