Nobody wants to acknowledge the start of winter, but it’s coming whether we want it to or not. There are numerous hazards that arise with the season that can lead to injury, including slippery sidewalks and poor visibility with driving. One of the most common ways to get hurt is from shovelling. Frequent bending, twisting and lifting can often lead to back, knee and shoulder problems. Following the tips listed below can help you reduce the risk of injury.
Warm-Up before shovelling: Shovelling is a strenuous activity and puts a lot of force through the body. A brief warm-up can help loosen up tissues. If it’s a nice day or if you’re not afraid of the cold, go for a 5-10 minute walk around the block. If the conditions are not favourable for walking outdoors, you can walk around the house for 5 minutes or perform 15-20 jumping jacks at a relaxed pace.
Choose the right shovel: Smaller, lightweight shovels are much easier to use than larger metal ones. Using a shovel with an adjustable or curved handle will also decrease bending and take pressure off of the low back while moving snow.
Use the right technique: Pushing is the easiest way to move snow without putting too much force through the body. An average shovelful weighs about 6 pounds, but can weigh upwards of 15 pounds. If you have to lift snow, try to lift lighter amounts and don’t throw snow. Repetitive throwing has negative effects on both the shoulders and low back.
Maintain the right posture: Try to keep the natural arch in your low back and avoid stooping forward while shovelling. Bending at the knees as much as they allow will also take pressure off of other body parts and reduce your risk of injury.
Additional Tips: In addition to the tips above, there are a few other things to keep in mind when shovelling. Firstly, try to shovel snow frequently and don’t let it pile up. This will decrease the weight you will have to move at any given time. Secondly, watch for ice and make sure you are stable and balanced while you shovel. Finally, be sure to drink lots of water and take frequent breaks. Muscle and joint injuries are more common, but the most serious health risk is having a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack. Do not overexert yourself and if you are concerned about the risks, talk to your medical doctor before trying to shovel.
The Final Word
There is no way to completely eliminate shovelling injuries, but the risk can be reduced greatly by using the right shovel, proper technique and good posture. Keep warm, hydrated and shovel at your own pace to decrease the chance of getting hurt.