Shovel Snow Safely
By Dennis Milenov
We’ve been lucky so far this year as snow accumulation has been minimal, sparing our backs in the process. But, there is still more winter to come and likely more snow that will need shovelling!
Keep in mind that shovelling snow can require a strenuous effort, especially when moving wet and heavy snow. Loading a shovel (more than 1kg) with about 5kg of snow (which is about average), every five seconds and you are moving a load of over 70kg in one minute. Repeat for 15 minutes and you have shoveled 1000kg of snow!
Each year we see many patients in our chiropractic office with low back complaints related to snow shovelling. Here are some tips to consider when shovelling that can minimize the risk of a back injury:
- Don’t let the snow pile up: Frequent shovelling will allow you to move smaller amounts of snow. Clear snow early and often and work at a steady pace that is comfortable for you.
- Warm up: Just like any other exercise, take the time to warm up first. A brisk walk for 10 minutes or some dynamic stretches, can increase the heart rate to prepare you for activity.
- Pick the right shovel: Use a lightweight pusher-type shovel. If you are using a metal shovel, spray it with Teflon first so the snow won’t stick to it.
- Push don’t throw: Whenever possible, push the snow to the side rather than lifting and throwing it. That way you avoid lifting heavy shovelfuls of snow and sudden twisting or turning movements that are stressful on the spine and muscles of the low back. Do NOT throw snow over your shoulder or to the side!
- Bend your knees: If you find you have to lift a shovelful of snow, use your knees, hips and leg muscles while keeping your back straight. Take a light load that you can lift easily and turn your feet in the direction you’re lifting. Keep the load close to your body.
- Take a break: Shovelling can be hard work! Take a break if you feel tired or short of breath. Stop your activity immediately if you experience sudden or prolonged pain in any joint or muscle. If you have chest pain that is severe, seek medical attention immediately.
- Avoid slips and falls: A fall could leave you with more than just a sore back! Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces and make sure you wear shoes or boots with slip resistant soles.