Snow Shoveling Safety

shoveling-snowDepending on where you live, a few snowflakes may have already fallen. Many people look forward to the first snow fall that elegantly drapes the trees and shrubs. After that initial glee wears off the reality of the situation will finally hit; now you have to shovel! We hope these snow shoveling tips will keep you from injuring yourself this winter and may actually make this chore more enjoyable.

  • Snow shoveling is no different than any other physical activity, check with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you and then warm up properly. Yes, you read correctly. Stretch and warm-up the same as you would before exercising. Be sure to stretch your hamstrings, back, and shoulders. Pace yourself, start slowly and build up your pace, do not attack it just to get it done!
  • Dress for success. Dress in layers that can be removed if you start to overheat, and also make sure they are easy to move around in. Wear a hat, your head is where you lose the most heat. Proper boots will keep your feet warm and dry and also provide traction on slippery surfaces. Finally, make sure your gloves are heavy enough to keep fingers warm, prevent blisters, and give you a good firm grip on your shovel.
  • Proper Equipment. You are almost ready to begin; now you need the best shovel for the job. Shovels come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Plastic shovels will weigh less; after all, isn’t the snow heavy enough? A smaller shovel blade will move less snow each swipe, but will also keep you from lifting more weight than you should. An ergonomic shovel (with a curved handle) will help you keep the correct form, keeping your spine straighter, which means less chance of injury. Another tip is to spray the blade of your shovel with a silicone lubricant to keep snow from sticking. PAM cooking spray actually works very well!
  • Have a plan. You are now ready to head outside. Remove snow from around your front door and on your sidewalk as you go along. Removing it before you trample it is much easier than trying to scrape it up later. Now it’s time to tackle the driveway. Consider it to be a rectangle. Clean around the edges first. Then move/push everything the shortest distance; pushing snow from the middle toward the closest outside edge. Choose a spot to dump your snow that will be close, but also out of the way. You do NOT want to have to move it twice! Clean the snow off all vehicles in your driveway before you clean around them. Be thorough, but not too fussy! After clearing the bulk of the snow, spread some de-icer, and let the sun do the rest of the work for you.
  • Maintain proper posture. Use your legs muscles as much as possible; pushing more than lifting it you can. If you must lift, keep your back straight and bend at your knees. Keep the shovel close to your body and one hand close to the shovel blade for better leverage. Throw snow in front of you, not over your shoulder. Do not twist your body; always keep it in front of you as you throw.
  • Some final tips:
    • Keep hydrated and rest often.
    • Remove snow as it accumulates rather than dealing with it all at once.
    • Avoid caffeinated beverages and energy drinks which will elevate your heart rate before you even begin.
    • Recruit. It’s much easier and quicker when you get help for this task!
    • Stretch when you are done and use an ice pack and ibuprofen to relieve inflamed muscles.

Reward yourself with some well-deserved rest after this “back-breaking” chore.

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