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Shovel Snow Properly To Prevent Back Injuries

With the arrival of winter season, many people will be at risk of all kinds of injuries, from slips and falls, to sprains and strains, to serious back injuries when shovelling snow. It is important to take safety precautions to prevent injury, because even light fluffy snow can sustain serious back injuries if shovelled improperly.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid low back pain and injuries when shovelling snow:

  1. Choose the right snow shovel
    Choosing an ergonomic shovel with an adjustable handle length or curved handle can eliminate the risk of painful bending. With the right shovel, you only need to bend your knees slightly and arch your back slightly as well to keep the shovel blade on the ground.

    You may also consider switching to a small plastic blade, instead of a metallic one. A lightweight shovel will reduce each load, making the task less strenuous.

  2. Warm up before shovelling
    Cold, contracted muscles have a higher risk of injury than warm, flexible muscles when doing any kind of physical exercise.Whether or not you consider shovelling a kind of exercise, you still need to prepare your muscles for it.

    You just need five to ten minutes of walking, marching in place, or any other full-body activity get your blood flowing, followed by some gentle stretching exercises for your low back and hamstrings and a one-minute body hug, to limber up your shoulders and arms before shovelling.

  3. Use ergonomic lifting techniques
    The recommended technique for clearing snow is pushing it to the side as opposed to lifting it. When you need to lift the snow shovel, use an ergonomic technique, like the one that as follows:

    • Face towards the heap you want to lift with both your hips and shoulders squarely facing it
    • Don’t bend at the low back. Instead, bend at the hips, pushing your chest out so it points forward. To lift the load, bend your knees and push with your leg muscles. Always keep your back straight.
    • Use light loads and avoid lifting objects that are too heavy for you
    • When lifting a full shovel, one of your hands should grip the shovel as close to the blade as you can comfortably get, and the other on the handle
    • Don’t twist your back when moving the snow to the side. Instead, pivot your entire body so it is always aligned with the shovel
    • Don’t extend your hands to throw the snow. It is good practice to keep the load as close to your body’s centre of gravity as possible to avoid straining
    • To deposit the snow at a distance, walk to the new site rather than tossing it or reaching over

For greater stability, wear boots with good treads, spread rock salt or kitty litter to increase traction, and grip the shovel with your hands 12-inches apart. This will also help to reduce the risk of slips and falls, strains, and low back injury.

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