Monday, January 25, 2010
Snow-Shoveling Safety Tips
So I had someone who asked if there where tips for shoveling snow and how to prevent injuries... Here it is!
Anyone who has shoveled snow before knows how good a workout it can be. When you consider that the average shovelful of snow weighs 5-10 pounds, the average driveway or walkway may hold hundreds of pounds of snow. But despite the benefits, shoveling snow can also be physically stressful; bending, lifting, and twisting, combined with the exposure to freezing weather conditions, can take a serious toll on the body.
The following are some quick tips on how to shovel snow smarter. If you're in an area of the country that gets snow, pay attention; if not, pass these tips on to a friend or family member as applicable.
Do a warm-up first. A tight, stiff body is asking for injury. A few minutes of stretching can save you a lot of pain later. When you are shoveling, don't forget to breathe. Holding your breath makes you tight and stiff.
Use the right size shovel. Your shovel should be about chest high on you, allowing you to keep your back straight when lifting. A shovel with a short staff forces you to bend more to lift the load; a too-tall shovel makes the weight heavier at the end. Also keep one hand close to the base of the shovel to balance weight and lessen the strain on your back.
Timing is everything. Listen to weather forecasts so you can shovel in ideal conditions. If possible, wait until the afternoon to shovel. Many spinal disc injuries occur in the morning when there is increased fluid pressure in the disc because your body has been at rest all night.
Use proper posture. When you do shovel, bend your knees and keep your back straight while lifting with your legs. Push the snow straight ahead; don't try to throw it. Try to shovel forward to avoid sudden twists of the torso and reduce strain on the back. The American Chiropractic Association recommends using the "scissors stance," in which you work with your right foot forward for a few minutes and then shift to the front foot.
Take your time. Working too hard, too fast is an easy way to strain muscles. Take frequent breaks. Shovel for about five minutes at a time and then rest for two minutes.
See your chiropractor. Gentle spinal manipulation will help keep your back flexible and minimize the chance for injury. If you do overdo it, your chiropractor can help you feel better and prevent more injury.
Taking heed of these simple tips could make the difference between spending the day enjoying a new snowfall or lying in bed with a sore back, sprained ankle or other injury that could have been easily avoided. Your doctor can tell you more about how to minimize injury risk when exercising or performing any vigorous activity.
In your Health,
Dr. Jon Wise