Winter is here and many parts of the country have already been walloped with serious snow storms. But shoveling snow from your driveway can be more than just a chore — it can be hazardous and even lethal if you’re not careful.. According to Dr. Brian A. Cole, MD, FAAOS, American board-certified orthopedic surgeon, most injuries occur due to improper technique.
Below are Dr. Cole’s top 5 tips on how to prevent a back injury this winter.
- Work Smarter – Before a snowfall, place down salt to make your shoveling job easier the next day. Try to clear the snow as early in the day as you can, preventing it from piling up.
- Warm Up – Many don’t realize how strenuous shoveling is. Typically, a shovel with snow can weigh up to 30lbs, and to shovel the full drive way and walk way can take 30-45 minutes. Before taking on the snow, do some light stretching to warm up your muscles for the work ahead. Remember, warm muscles respond best to movement and exercise.
- Dress Comfortably – Shoveling is a cardiovascular workout that requires the use of your arms and legs, so dress accordingly so you’re staying warm, but able to move your muscles. Also wearing proper snow boots with good traction will prevent a fall on the slippery ground.
- Lift Correctly – First, make sure your shovel is not too long or too heavy for you to lift. If you can, push the snow to the side vs. lifting up to protect your back. If you do have to lift, use your legs, and avoid twisting your back or throwing snow over your shoulder as this motion puts a lot of stress on your back. Lastly, go slow. If there’s a lot of snow buildup, don’t rush, and instead work in sections by removing the snow in layers.
- Rest – Depending on your current cardiovascular health, you might feel sore afterwards. A warm bath afterwards, some ice to remove inflammation or even taking an acetaminophen to relive some minor aches and pains.
- If the forecast calls for a heavy snowfall over a long period of time, don’t wait until it’s over to pick up a shovel. Plan to clear the snow at least once while it’s still falling and then again when the storm passes.
And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. This is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.
And if you don’t feel that you will have issues shoveling snow, ask for help. Remember safety first.