A lot of snow has fallen recently, with more on the way. And while that means people can do a lot of fun things like sledding and building snowmen, it also means having to do things many people dread, like shoveling that snow. Anyone who has lived in a cold weather area has more than likely had to shovel before, whether it be a driveway, sidewalk, or parking space, and knows what a pain it can be. Let's face it, shoveling snow is hard work; and if you are not careful it can be dangerous too!
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Most people know that shoveling snow can place a tremendous amount of stress on the heart, but what many may not realize is that it can also cause a large amount of strain on the back as well. Thousands of people injure their backs every year while shoveling; these can include anything from mild injuries like basic muscle fatigue or minor back strains to more serious problems such as herniated or bulging discs, or even spinal fractures. This is why it is important to take precautions and be prepared before shoveling, so that serious injury can be avoided.
In order to prevent back pain from occurring, here are some tips that everyone should follow before shoveling snow:
- Make Sure You Wear Appropriate Clothing
When spending a long amount of time in freezing weather, it is important to wear clothing in layers that is easy to move in and not restrictive. It is also a good idea to wear a hat, because the majority of a person's body heat is lost through their head. Some may find it helpful to wear a scarf to keep their face warm and protect it from blowing snow while shoveling. Finally, wearing proper boots is vital, not only for keeping your feet warm and dry, but also for providing traction to help with balance on slippery surfaces.
- Have Some Good Gloves
Of course everyone knows to have a pair of gloves to keep their hands warm. But certain types of gloves can make shoveling easier. For instance, gloves with leather or vinyl on the fingers and palms will help provide you with a tighter grip on the handle. This can help prevent the shovel from slipping, which could lead to a back injury. Also, thicker gloves protect your hands from blisters and callouses.
- Warm Your Body Up
Just like when doing any exercises, warming up is crucial. So before beginning, take a few minutes to jog in place or do some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing and warm up the muscles. Warm muscles work better than cold ones and are less likely to be injured.
- Use A Shovel That's Appropriate For You
Using the correct shovel for you can play a big part in saving your back from injury or pain. Every person is different, so a shovel that works well for one person might not work best for another. Make sure yours is not too tall or short for you, which can cause you to have to awkwardly bend and hurt your back. Also be sure that your shovel is lightweight and has a curved handle, as this helps to keep your back straight while shoveling. And use the size blade that works best for you. A small blade can't pick up as much snow, but it also prevents you from picking up a load that is too heavy for you.
- Take Breaks As Needed
When shoveling, it is important to pace yourself. Take frequent breaks where you stand up straight, stretch your back, and roll your shoulders to relieve tension. Take your time, you don't need to finish your shoveling all at once.
- Stay Hydrated
Keeping your body hydrated is very important when doing anything strenuous. Always remember to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after shoveling snow, and avoid caffeinated drinks which can cause dehydration and lead to aches and pains.
- Use Your Legs
When you are bending over to shovel snow, make sure you are lowering yourself with your legs and NOT your back. By doing this you will help avoid added pressure on your spine which can lead to severe back injuries.
- Switch Sides Often While Shoveling
Doing any kind of repetitive motion for a long period of time will often lead to soreness. So, in order to lessen the chance of this happening while shoveling, alternate between tossing the snow to your right and to your left. Also, change your hand positioning so that you are gripping your shovel on the opposite side of your body.
- Grip Your Shovel Correctly
Don't place your hands to close together when holding the shovel. Keep around 12 inches of distance so that you have more leverage, which make it easier to lift the snow.
- Lift The Snow Properly
It is crucial when shoveling that you lift the snow properly so that you protect your back from injury. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it, as this puts less strain on the spine. Stand with your feet the width of your hips apart and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees (NOT the back) and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift.
- Be Careful When You Toss Snow
Once you have picked up the snow, turn your entire body in the direction that you want to toss the snow. By doing this you are tossing the snow in a straight-forward way. Avoid ALL twisting movements or torso rotations. Also, never throw the snow to the side or over your shoulder. Doing so puts too much pressure on the spine and can lead to injury.
- Listen To What Your Body Is Saying
Pay attention to the signals that your body is telling you. Stop immediately if you feel any type of pain, shortness of breath, or other problem. Listen to your body and know your limitations.
- Take a Hot Shower
When you are all done, take a hot shower and stretch while under the hot water. By doing this you will help to relax your muscles, and it will lessen the chances of any aches and pains later.
Also, if you would like to learn more about how we can eliminate your back, neck, and sciatica pain, you can join us for our Back Pain and Sciatica Relief Webinar! Just click on the link below for information on the Webinar and how to register for it:
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