Winter is upon us which means endless darkness, cold mornings and lots of snow. New York is unforgiving in it’s winter weather and we are the unfortunate victims. When we get a snow storm, it means that a person is left to deal with the icy aftermath, which generally involves shoveling heavy, wet snow. Unfortunately, our bodies are the ones that end up paying the price.
But why is it that we experience so many injuries doing this one specific task? Well think of this:
An article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine made an important note that snow shoveling is generally not a year-round activity, and snowfall levels are unpredictable; therefore, it is difficult to prepare physically for snow shoveling. The cardiovascular demands of snow shoveling are increased by the freezing temperatures. Also, the design of most shovels are not meant to be ergonomic but instead efficient. This means that shovels often have heavy, metal buckets and short, straight handles.
So how should you protect your back this winter?
- Stretch before you head outside to shovel.
- Purchase a shovel with a curved handle that isn’t too short, making you hunch over or too long leaving more weight at the end. Also, make sure the bucket is lightweight and plastic.
- Scoop smaller loads of snow, and push the snow when possible.
- Bend your knees and lift with your legs, rather than with your spine or waist.
- Take frequent breaks and warm up inside.
- If you already have back problems, get a friend or a professional to shovel for you.
- Wear shoes with good traction to prevent slips and falls.
- During the actual lifting portion of shoveling, engage your core.
- ie: tighten your abs but don’t hold your breath