A blizzard is going to hit the Northeast tomorrow so for our first blog post we decided to discuss how to shovel snow safely. Many people injure their lower backs or arms while shoveling snow so here are a few tips to help you avoid these injuries:
Warm up and stretch before shoveling
You are less likely to “pull” a muscle when you are warmed up properly. Getting your muscles warm and loose before you shovel can help prevent injuries. If you do not have any exercise equipment at home to warm up on you can simply take a few quick laps around your home and up and down your stairs. Once you are warm then do a few stretches for your back, legs, and arms to loosen them before shoveling as a loose muscle is less likely to be torn.
Push instead of lift where you can
It is easier to push snow than lift it so whenever you can push the snow with your shovel. When there is a lot of snow it is hard to push so you will need to get out and push the snow while it is still manageable. This may require a few times of getting out to shovel in a severe storm like the one we are expected to have tomorrow. Try to clear as much of the snow with pushing it rather than lifting it wherever you can to minimize the amount of lifting you have to do.
When you get out and shovel a few times for a large snow fall you automatically will take breaks between outings but it is still important to take a few breaks while you are out shoveling. This allows your muscles to recover as well as your heart and lungs. When you take a break while shoveling make sure that you drink some water. Keeping your muscles hydrated can help prevent cramps and injuries.
Bend at your knees and hips
When you do have to lift the snow it is best to bend from your knees and hips and keep your back straight. This keeps you from placing all of the stress on your lower back and instead utilizes your leg muscles to do the lifting.
Never bend and twist from your back at the same time
Bending and twisting from your back at the same time places a lot of stress on your intervertebral discs and asymmetrical stress to your lower back muscles. This is a common way that people injure their lower backs. Avoid doing this by bending from your knees and hips to limit the bending at your back. Also, do not throw the snow as this is a quick twisting motion while your are in a bent position. Instead, carry the snow, keeping the shovel as close to you as possible, to where it needs to be placed and drop it.
Alternate your hand positions
Many people shovel snow using their hands in the same position and thus twist only one way while shoveling snow. Alternate your hand positions frequently so you use your muscles in your lower back as well as both of your arms more symmetrically and you twist equally in both directions.
Use a snow blower or hire someone to shovel for you
If all else fails, buy a snow blower. If you have a bad back, live in an area that tends to get a lot of snow, and/or you have a large amount of area to clear from snow it may be worth investing in a snow blower to hiring someone else to do the work.
We hope this was helpful and you enjoy the snow but are safe during the clearing.