With the massive snow covering this past weekend comes the inevitable dig-out. Most people, like myself, had to shovel out. Shoveling can cause a host of injuries from strains and is occasionally lethal; three people died from a heart attack during the last storm. The following details how to properly shovel the snow and what not to do when picking up the white stuff.
Proper shoveling technique
- Always face toward the object you intend to lift; have your shoulders and hips facing the snow.
- Bend at the hips, not the lower back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
- Keep your loads light, and do not lift an object that is too heavy for you. If the snow is thick and compact, lift less; it can look deceiving.
- If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably as possible and the other hand on the handle (handle and arm length will vary the technique).
- Avoid twisting the back to move the snow to its new location; pivot your whole body to face the new direction.
- Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body; do not extend your arms to throw the snow. This can strain the lower back.
- Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing it.
- Switch hand position periodically. This will prevent using one side more than the other.
- Make sure to take breaks and drink water.
DO NOT Lift the Snow: The Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends pushing it. If you have to lift, use your knees and avoid twisting your back to throw the snow.
Shovel in Small Batches: Do not wait until the end of the storm. Go outside and push the snow off after every few inches. This will ease the strain and effort. If you do not exercise regularly or have trouble exerting yourself, do not attempt to shovel snow. Ask for help!
Pick an Ergonomic Shovel: Choose one with a curved or adjustable handle designed to minimize bending. Make sure it is made of lightweight material.
Warm Up Before Shoveling: Walk or run in place for five to ten minutes. This will get the blood flowing to the muscles. If you feel sore or feel that you have hurt yourself, stop shoveling and get evaluated by a musculoskeletal specialist. If you feel chest pain, stop immediately and seek emergent medical attention!
If you are concerned that you injured yourself during the last storm, call the office and make an appointment for an evaluation!
Dr. Scott Schreiber is the owner and clinic director of MN Spine and Sport. He is a chiropractic physician and nutritionist who is double board-certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition. He is also a certified nutrition specialist.