Even know the snow looks light and fluffy out there, don’t let that fool you when shoveling. Sometimes it is not the weight of the snow so much as the repetitive movements of shoveling. This light, fluffy snow is better than the heavy, wet snow, but it can still cause injury. Here are a few tips to help prevent an injury:
1. Take your time – if you are anything like me you want to complete the job ask quickly as possible. However, in the case of shoveling snow, this is a recipe for disaster. The key is to take your time, slow and steady wins the race (winning is not injuring your back).
2. Take breaks frequently – most people don’t realize how much energy they are expending when they are shoveling. When you do take that break, you are usually very fatigued. The key here is to take breaks every certain amount of minutes, for example every 5 minutes. Set a timer on your watch or phone. This is will allow your body to recover before you continue again.
3. Bend at the knees and hips – and lift the weight with your legs as you all know you should. Do not use your back to lift because that is the easiest way to “blow out your back”. The small muscles of your back were never designed for lifting and carrying, it is actually the large muscles of your hips and legs that were designed to do the heavy lifting.
4. Maintain a neutral spine – what does that mean? Most people when they lift and carry flex their spine (rounding of the back). This puts tremendous pressure on the spine and discs which are the cushions in between the bones of your spine. It is the easiest way to injure your back because you are applying abnormal stress to parts of the spine which can’t handle that type of stress. To stay in a neutral spine, you want to flatten your back or even put it in a very slight arch. This will put the weight on the correct part of your spine and minimize your potential for injury.
5. Do not reach – the last thing you should do is try to over reach to get to an area. This creates a “long lever” which can be harmful. When reaching you put excess pressure with less support which can lead to injury.
6. Do not hold you breath – When you hold your breath while exerting you increase the pressure in your body, and everyone knows that we don’t work well under pressure!!! Breathing is key for so many reasons. It helps bring oxygen to your muscles to supply them with the energy they need to perform the tasks you are asking them to accomplish. It also prevents from over-exertion injuries which can prevent things like light-headedness and headaches.
The most common injuries are sprains and strains of the low back, herniated discs and pinched nerves. You can prevent these injuries by following these tips. The cold is another reason why so many people hurt themselves while shoveling. When your body is cold, the muscles are tight and less elastic and less flexible. When you put stress on a cold, tight muscle it is much easier to injure. Another way to prevent injury while shoveling is by warming up and more importantly staying warm. Drinks lots of water to keep your body hydrated as well. Please use these tips wen getting out there to shovel. If you have any questions you can always contact us at the office and we can provide you with even more information to help you with an injury free winter!