How To Safely Shovel Snow

Injuries sustained while shoveling snow are a common but preventable winter problem. Would you believe us if we told you that as many as 11,000 people visit a hospital every year for injuries that occurred while shoveling snow? The most common injuries experienced include back problems, broken bones, head injuries, and heart problems.

Luckily, as we mentioned above, these injuries are largely preventable. Below are some tips we’ve compiled to help keep you injury-free this winter!

Don’t shovel snow

If you’re concerned about injuring yourself shoveling snow, it may be a good idea to use a snowblower instead. Unlike shoveling, snowblowers primarily rely on your leg muscles to push the machine. Don’t have a snowblower and can’t buy one? Ask for help. You’d be surprised by how willing your friendly neighbors might be to help out. 

Choose the right shovel

If you insist on shoveling the snow yourself, you need to start with the proper tool. When purchasing a shovel, look for one with a curved handle or one that is adjustable in length, to help minimize the amount of bending you will be doing. Also, try to choose one that is small and lightweight. You’re already going to be scooping up heavy snow, why add more weight to lift on top of that?

Wear appropriate clothing

Slips and falls are a leading cause of back injury. Minimize your risk by wearing proper footwear with good treads. Consider using anti-slip ice traction shoe covers to ensure your feet stay firmly planted while you shovel.

Warm up before heading out

Yes, we mean warm up like you would before heading to the gym. Cold, tight muscles are much more prone to injury. So, 5-10 minutes before you head out, perform the following activities:

  • Get your blood pumping with a brisk walk.
  • Stretch your lower back muscles and hamstrings.
  • Loosen up your arms and shoulders with a 30-60 second body hug.

Use proper lifting techniques

Whenever possible, push the snow to the side instead of lifting it. When you do have to lift it, follow these lifting tips:

  • Always face the direction you are lifting.
  • Bend at your hips and lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Keep your loads light and know your limits.
  • Avoid twisting your back. Instead, pivot your entire body.
  • In deep snow, remove several inches off of the top at a time.

Pace yourself

When possible, remove the snow over a period of hours or days. If that’s not possible, make sure to take frequent breaks to avoid overexerting yourself.

If you do decide to shovel snow yourself, following the tips above will help set you up for a pain-free winter. If you do begin to experience back pain, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Nebraska Spine Hospital

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