How to Shovel Snow Safely

Shoveling snow is serious business. It is important to be aware of your body mechanics when it comes to snow removal. With any repetitive task, injury can be a result if done inefficiently. When you are mindful while removing snow from your driveway and walkways – you are less likely suffer muscle strain.

Did you know that a shovel loaded with snow weighs about 16 pounds?

When shoveling remember to Pace yourself, Bend your knees and No twisting!

Here are three tips to make your shoveling form more ergonomic to minimize any injury to your back, so it does not interfere with your significantly more exciting winter plans.

Tip 1: Push, not lift. Work smart, not hard. Pushing a weight is significantly less stressful on your body than lifting. If the snowbanks on the side of your driveway are low and you can push the snow off, do so. No reason to work harder than you need to.

Tip 2: When pushing, keep your shoulders and hips square. This position places your spine in a neutral position, which is optimal for pushing and lifting. Injuries to your lower back tend to occur when we run into unforeseen twisting motions with a weight.

If we look at how we are anatomically designed, the lumbar spine is made to bend forward and back (flexion and extension), not to twist (this is the job of our thoracic spine – chest and rib cage area). Choosing a shovel with a trolley like-handle that allows you to push with both hands as if you were pushing a shopping cart is a good tool for everybody to have in their garage.

Tip 3: If you have to lift, bend at the hips and lift with the leg; do not lift with the low back. Although lifting with your low back feels easier, it is incredibly inefficient, and it increases the risk of injury to the area. Bending at the hips will lower your center of gravity and engage the muscles in your buttock and legs, which are anatomically larger and can exert more force in comparison to the muscles in your back. When you do lift snow with your shovel, it is best practice to dump the snow directly in front of you. Again we want to limit the amount of twisting in the low back for the reasons mentioned in tip 2.

Minimize the distance. Throwing snow as far as you can strains your back, shoulders and neck. Take time to walk closer to where you want to place the snow.

Plan your shoveling route to reduce the amount of lifting that you must do. Try starting at the midpoint of the width of your driveway and shovel along the length of your driveway, splitting the driveway into two smaller half compartments. Then, continue to shovel, addressing one half of the driveway at a time. Ultimately, this reduces the demand on your body by reducing the snow you must push and lift with each repetition.

Less is more. If a full shovel feels too heavy, take less snow. Your body will thank you!
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