With the snow comes an influx of snow-related injuries, particularly those that have occurred while shoveling snow. Read on for advice for some top tips…
Choose your weapon
Now if you had a snow blower or a plow service, you wouldn’t be reading this, so let’s assume shovels are your available “weapon”. When it comes to snow shovels bigger is not better. The larger the scoop, the more snow, the heavier it will be. Consider plastic over metal and look at the handle height. Ergonomic snow shovels are available, some of which come with adjustable handle lengths. Go for a shovel that is designed for pushing rather than digging.
Dress for the cold but think in terms of layers so you can remove some if you start to get too hot. Water-resistant clothing is desirable. Wear a hat and good quality gloves that won’t cause friction when shovelling. Wear sturdy, anti-slip boots that will keep your feet warm and dry. Wool socks are better than cotton as they absorb sweat more.
Have a plan
Think about where you are going to move the snow to as you don’t want to give yourself more work. Spread salt on icy areas to give yourself better traction. Fresher snow is easier to move, than older, more compacted snow.
Get some blood flowing by marching in place, jumping jacks, etc. After about five minutes your muscles will be primed. Now you can start stretching. Focus on the lower back and hamstrings, which will help with the actual lifting. Limbering up the arms by doing big circles for about a minute will get the blood flowing all the way to the fingertips.
Easy does it
Small frequent episodes of snow removal are preferable than a marathon event. Make sure you take breaks every 15-20 minutes and remember to keep hydrated. That will make it easier for the heart to pump blood through your muscles.
Watch your technique
Pushing snow is the best option as it involves less lifting. When you do lift:
- Face your target. Have your chest and hips squared up to the pile you are lifting
- Bend at the hips, not the lower back, keeping the chest pushed forward
- Then bend knees and lift with your legs
- Don’t lift too much. Remember, small bites. If you must take a big scoop, make sure your hand is as far down as it can go for leverage
- Pivot your whole body to where you want the snow to go. Don’t twist your back
- Walk to the new location and twist the shovel to let the snow drop. No throwing snow!
Even with perfect form, you may still encounter soreness or stiffness. This could be due to age, fitness level, preexisting conditions, or any number of other factors. If you do find yourself in discomfort after shoveling, making an appointment with a chiropractor can help limit the damage done, and get you ready for the next storm.