Winter season is in full swing! Midwesterners know that inclement weather can be just around the corner and with the snow and ice comes an increase in weather related injuries.
A recent study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy found that over a 16-year period there was an average of 11,500 snow shoveling related injuries treated each year in U.S. emergency departments. The injuries were largely musculoskeletal with the lower back being the most frequently affected area. If you have symptoms that persist for a few days following snow shoveling head into a PT clinic for a free injury screen to see if you would benefit from physical therapy services.
So, before we clean off that sidewalk or dig out that car and parking space let’s take some steps to ensure our safety and prevent injury.
First things first, make sure you wear the appropriate outerwear for the conditions.
It is important when out in the snow and cold that your layers stay dry. You become more vulnerable to the cold when you are wet. Exposed skin is more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia than covered skin. Make sure to cover your ears and nose. Wear waterproof gloves and boots to protect your extremities.
It is important to have a good shovel and one that is sized right for you. A smaller shovel blade is better in that you will not be tempted to carry a load that is too heavy. Plastic blades are lighter than metal and that is also a help. Use a shovel with curved shaped handle. This will help you keep your back straighter and decrease the need for bending while shoveling the white stuff. It is also recommended that you purchase a shovel with the correct length handle. Try out your shovel in the store if the handle is too long you will find that you need to flex your back too far for comfort.
And, yes, snow shoveling is exercise! So just as before any physical exercise you should warm up your muscles. Stretch and loosen up before you tackle that driveway. You can warm up your muscles by performing some jumping jacks and high knees exercises. When possible, try to push the snow rather than lifting and hurling it. When you do need to lift take small amounts and walk to wear you can dump it. Avoid twisting and hurling. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends: “If you must lift the snow, lift it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist.” Take your time, take breaks when necessary. Remember, the snow will wait for you!
Let’s hope our mild winter continues but if a storm strikes keep these tips in mind for snow shoveling safety. And, remember spring is just around the corner!
Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries. Retrieved January 18, 2017 from http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/snow-shoveling-techniques-prevent-low-back-injuries
In the Bleak Mid-winter: 10 Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling. Retrieved January 20, 2017 from http://www.coloradospineinstitute.com/subject.php?pn=wellness-snow-shoveling
Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries. Retrieved January 18, 2017 from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00060