Shoveling snow is one of the most thankless cold-weather tasks. Up north, they have giant plow trucks and snow-blowers to move unwanted snow. Unfortunately, here in Arkansas, it is up to us to move the nasty stuff manually, unless you want to wait a few days until it has melted! But if you need to get out, it can be treacherous as thawing snow during the day turns to icy frozen sheets at night. Removing the snow from your walks and driveway is the safest way. Here are some tips to help you get through this necessary evil without injury.
Don’t overlook this important step. It is tempting just to grab the shovel and get the job done, but not taking the time to stretch thoroughly can have disastrous effects.
Take 3-4 minutes to stretch your back, arms and legs. Shoveling requires us to use different muscles than the muscles we rely on to do our day-to day tasks. Since we don’t shovel often, it is easier to strain or injure your muscles or back. To prevent strain, do not risk it! Stretch first!
Push Snow First
Use your shovel to push snow off the walkways and driveway. Often snow has compacted and may be hard (especially if it’s been driven or walked over). Push top layers off first, then work to remove the lower, heavier layers.
Keep Your Back Straight and Legs Engaged
Keep your back vertical and in good alignment instead of bending over the shovel to lift. Use your legs to lift heavier snow.
Use Your Shoulder Muscles
Use your stronger shoulder muscles combined with your leg muscles to lift properly. Avoid extending and bending your spine and using your back to lift. By using shoulders and legs, you relieve pressure on your back and avoid back injury.
Hold the Shovel Close
When you lift the snow, using your legs and shoulders, keep the shovel close to your body. Choke down on the shovel handle with your hands, moving them closer to the shovel head. This keeps your back from being strained and it allows you to use your shoulder and arm muscles as we indicated above.
Don’t Twist Your Upper Body
When possible, avoid throwing snow as this puts strain on the back and shoulders. Always avoid twisting your upper body to throw snow. Twisting the body is the fastest way to injure your back.
Keep Hydrated, Rest Frequently and Recruit Help
Shoveling is strenuous on your body and the dry, cold air will dehydrate your body as you work. Take time to hydrate often. Take a break every 10 to 15 minutes and check in with your body. Whenever possible, recruit additional help. Remember the adage: Many hands make light work.
Follow these simple, commonsense tips and you will avoid injury this winter and keep yourself and loved ones safe!