It’s the most wonderful time of the year – hot cocoa, festive social events, and snowy evenings by the fireplace! This past weekend we saw Maryland’s first snowfall, and we could not be more excited! Even though it wasn’t more than a few inches, did you feel prepared? With more snow in the forecast, we thought it necessary to talk about snow shoveling tips to prevent injury! We’ve chatted previously about yard work injury in general – but this time of year, shoveling is what gives our patients the most issues.
You may not realize it while you are doing it, but poor shoveling technique can have quite a negative impact on your back. Back injury due to shoveling is common but is also totally preventable. This winter season, don’t get stuck on the sidelines of your holiday parties or family sledding adventures – consider these snow shoveling tips to prevent injury!
Snow Shoveling Tips:
1: Pick The Right Shovel
We know shoveling can be quite a chore… but an ergonomically designed shovel can take some of the load off your hands! When shopping for a snow shovel this winter, look for these two characteristics:
- A shovel with a curved handle or one with an adjustable handle length. This will cause you to bend at your knees and hips instead of with your back.
- Shovels made out of lightweight plastic. The lighter the shovel the less weight you have to push or lift.
2: Warm Up Before Shoveling
As we’ve mentioned time and time again, warming up before any physical activity is beyond important. Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than those that have been warmed up. Consider warming up for ten to fifteen minutes before shoveling:
- Take a brisk walk before starting. Simply walking or marching in place will warm up your muscles and get your blood flowing.
- Stretch your low back and hamstrings. These two muscle groups will be doing the brunt of the work while shoveling. Check out some of our simple stretches to help warm you up:
3: Remember Your Ergonomics!
We have a whole separate blog post on creating an ergonomic life! But this winter, consider these ergonomic snow shoveling tips:
- When lifting snow, always face towards the front of your shovel, with your shoulders and hips square.
- Always bend at your hips and knees – never round your low back.
- Keep your snow loads manageable – don’t try to get the job done faster with heavy loads. Even if you are in good form, heavier loads can overwork your muscles and increase your chance of injury.
- Avoid twisting your back – instead, pivot your whole body to unload your shovel.
- Do not reach or toss snow from your shovel. Instead, walk it to the new location to prevent injury.
4: Pace Yourself
Like we mentioned above – do not try to increase your load just to get the job done faster. By keeping your loads a manageable size you can perform the task safely. This idea also goes for pacing yourself. We all want to be done shoveling and out of the cold as quickly as possible, but overworking yourself can cause injury. Consider these tips to pace yourself:
- Depending on the depth of the snow, remove a few inches off the top at a time. Avoid attempting to shovel a full depth at once.
- Take breaks every ten to fifteen minutes. If you’re like us, you’ll enjoy a cup of hot cocoa each break!!
- If you feel overworked, take additional breaks.
5: Keep Hydrated
While on your breaks, make sure you take a few sips of water as well. Shoveling snow is a strenuous task, and you’re doing more work than you may think. Staying hydrated before, during, and after shoveling is incredibly important.
6: Invest in a Snow Blower
If possible, consider investing in a snow blower. When used correctly, they can greatly decrease the amount of stress on your low back compared to shoveling. We still advise using your legs to push the snow blower and keeping your back straight to prevent injury.
Final Snow Shoveling Tips
Just as you warm up before shoveling, we also recommend repeating the same stretches after you are done. Eat a big meal and drink plenty of water to recover from all your hard work. Keeping these tips in mind during our snowy season will lessen your chances of developing new back problems or worsening any existing issues.
Are you experiencing back pains from shoveling? At Chesapeake Family Wellness Center we offer a wide variety of massage therapies and chiropractic care options to treat low back pain! Whether you’re looking to prevent injury or to treat back pain we can help! Click below to schedule your next appointment, and enjoy this holiday season pain-free!