Snow shoveling is a very strenuous activity during extreme weather conditions. Being prepared for the task will help decrease your risk of injury. Here are some important tips to remain healthy during snow shoveling. You will be glad you took the extra time!
First, consider hiring help or asking for help with snow removal, particularly if you are older or not in the best of shape. Better safe than sorry!
- If you must shovel, dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Exposed skin can lead to frost bite very quickly in some extreme conditions. Cold can also tighten up the muscles so they don’t work as well.
- Select your shovel wisely. Make sure it is constructed well and has a long enough handle so you can keep your back straight while lifting. A short handle will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long for your body height makes the weight at the end heavier.
- Stretch before, during, and after shoveling. Backward-bending exercises done while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending that occurs while shoveling, so stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backward slightly for several seconds. This will help prepare your muscles for the task ahead, and keep them from protesting too much! It will also help keep them warm, so they will work better for you!
- Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Take care to bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than with your back. Do not twist and turn your back while shoveling. The spine does not tolerate twisting during lifting of heavy weights well at all! The best approach is to load the shovel, lift it straight up, and then step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the twisting of the spine.
- Take breaks while shoveling. Use the break to take a few deep breaths, stand up straight, and stretch. If your snow removal is a large project, consider spreading it out over a few small blocks of time. Then you can go inside to warm up, stretch, and rest for a bit. Taking breaks will help make sure you are not overworking your muscles and back, so you won’t be as sore later!
When you’re done and standing back admiring your work, stretch some more! Job well done!
Brenda Ebode, DPT, MBA is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Harrington HealthCare System. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Vermont, her MBA from Northeastern University, and her Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Simmons College. She has been a physical therapist for over 35 years. To contact Brenda please call 508-434-1435 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.