Living in Minnesota, I know that the calendar doesn’t always speak the truth. While winter may not officially be here, the snow has already made its entrance!
Each year snow shoveling sends over 11,000 people to the Emergency Room.i While heart related issues make up only 7% of those seen in the E.R.; ALL snow shoveling deaths are heart related. It is imperative that you don’t overdo it and tax your heart to the point of being short of breath, gasping for air, dizzy or lightheaded.
According to Brad Coffiner of Cornell University’s ergonomic department, “…when handling heavy snow with a shovel, the L5/S1 disc has been identified as the weakest link in the body segment chain. The most severe injuries and pain are likely to occur in the back region.” Along with a high risk to back injuries, muscle & tendon injuries, heart related issues, broken bones, and risk of falling are on the list of reasons to be extra careful.
Reduce your risk of injury with these…
Snow Shoveling & Removal Tips
- Never shovel large amounts of snow at once – If you have a large storm that brings a lot of snow, approach it in small sections with breaks in between. Clear the snow layer by layer. This will not only protect your back but help to keep you from other possible injuries such as sprains, strains, or frost bite.
- Wear good winter footwear – You need to reduce your chances of slipping and falling. Boots designed for winter traction are extremely helpful. Whether you are pushing a snow blower or shoveling, you need to be planted firmly.
- Buy an ergonomic shovel that pushes the snow – Use a shovel that is ergonomically designed to make the shoveling less stressful. Remember it does not take away all of the danger.
- Tone up your core – The more fit and conditioned your core muscles are, the stronger your back will be. This will help reduce injury to the “weakest links” surrounding your spine which help make your back stronger.
- Wear the proper outerwear – Many people don’t realize how quickly your body can be subjected to frostbite. Wearing clothing designed for low temperatures and moisture wicking can help deter the cold. Be sure to keep gloves, a hat and your face protected while shoveling or blowing your snow.
- Push the snow – Instead of lifting the snow, push it with a shovel that is created to push larger amounts of snow at one time. If you find that you must lift the snow be sure to lift with your legs.
- Don’t stretch, twist, turn and throw snow – The typical person will scoop up a large amount of snow on their shovel, stay with their feet planted in the same spot and twist to the left or right to throw the snow. This twist and throw method can easily pull a muscle or ligament. Instead flip a light load over your shoulder.
- Pace yourself – It’s imperative that you pace yourself and take breaks often. Pacing can be the one thing that saves your life; because you can be in great shape and still suffer a heart attack from overworking your heart while shoveling. Don’t forget to keep well hydrated during your breaks.
Proper Shoveling Techniques
According to the Orthopaedic Association of Michigan there are certain techniques that can reduce your risk of injury. There is a proper technique to shoveling:
- Stand with your feet staggered and shoulder width apart
- For better leverage, space your hands; making it easier to lift the shovel
- If you must bend at the waist do so by bringing your hands closer to the end of the shovel or get a shovel with a longer handle. Avoid extending your arms if possible.
- Tighten your core muscles with each lift of the shovel
- Tilt your head down in line with your straight back
We want you to Live Your Life PAIN FREE this winter. Contact us today to see how Live Your Life Physical Therapy can help you reduce your risk of injury while shoveling.
Dedicated to Keeping You Healthy & Active,
Dr. Eva Norman
President & Founder
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Live Your Life Physical Therapy, LLC
[i] Snow Shoveling Injures Thousands Each Year by Kelli Miller/Reviewed by Dr. Laura J. Martin, MD. – WebMD Health News (Information & Resources)