Personally I enjoy the winter season, especially fresh snowfall as it brings in amazing Photographic opportunities and family time at home or on a ski slope. But winter also brings in significant health hazards. According to the American Journal Of Emergency Medicine out of all reported winter injuries: 7 % are heart related (including heart attack), majority are back /spine pain 34%, some arm and hand injuries 16% as well as head injuries 15%. Another interesting fact is people over the age of 55 years are 4.25 times more likely to get hurt and men are twice likely to get injured than women (I am sure this also has to to do with the fact that a lot more men end up doing this challenging chore).
Let’s be safe by using the following simple precautions:
- Warm up. Warm your muscles before heading out to shovel by doing some light movements, such as bending side to side or walking in place.
- Fall-proof yourself. Wear shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles or add traction with slip-on ice cleats, available at sporting goods stores. Once your walkway is clear, consider putting down salt or sand or both.
- Push rather than lift. Pushing the snow with the shovel instead of lifting can help reduce the strain on your body. When lifting snow, bend your knees and use your legs when possible.
- Choose your shovel wisely. Ergonomically-designed shovels can help reduce the amount of bending you have to do.
- Keep up with snowfall. Try to shovel snow shortly after it falls, when it is lighter and fluffier. The longer snow stays on the ground, the wetter it can become. Wet snow is heavier and harder to move.
- Wear layers. Dress in layers and remove them as you get warm to help maintain a comfortable body temperature.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while shoveling.
Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders. Back injuries due to snow shoveling are more likely to happen to people who may not know that they are out of condition.
Following these tips can help you avoid spine injuries:
- Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Be sure to take care to bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back.
- Keep one foot ahead of the other. This will give you more power and produce far less strain on your lower back.
- Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting. This will help prevent “next-day back fatigue.”
- Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.
- Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Consider taking a break after 20 to 30 minutes of shoveling, especially when the snow is wet.
- Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.
- Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling: stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backward slightly for several seconds.
- If you or anyone you know is experiencing back pain, book an appointment at Dynamic Physical Therapy or get in touch.