The snow has finally arrived, and for some of us this means dusting of the skis or snowboard and heading to the hill. However for others it means dusting of the snow shovel and removing the mounds of snow in the driveway!! While this seasonal activity may seem mundane, it can also be dangerous.
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission:
- In 2007, more than 118,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually.
- Types of injuries can include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations.
Snow shoveling can be compared to weight lifting, and in some cases, the aerobic aspect of this activity is similar to a workout on a treadmill! So to help your body function on demand, consider the following tips:
- Fresh snow is lighter - so clear snow as soon as it has fallen. Snow becomes dense as it compacts on the ground. Wet snow is very heavy. One shovelful can weigh 20 pounds or more!
- If the ground is icy or slick, spread sand or salt over the area to help create foot traction. Be aware that some areas may be uneven and could cause you to slip, trip, or fall.
- Warm-up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity. Before you begin this physical workout, warm-up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.
- Pace yourself. Snow shoveling and blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, stop shoveling/blowing and seek emergency care.
- Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
- Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once. Do it in pieces.
- Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
If you do experience a snow shoveling injury contact Ascent Physical Therapy on 970.949.9966 to learn about your treatment options.