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Preventing Shoveling Injuries

It’s that time of year when we must all begin to think about clearing our driveways and sidewalks of snow. Before doing so, here are some helpful hints to avoid being one of the 158,000 individuals who were treated in 2015 for injuries while shoveling snow and ice:

  • Proper Lifting. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight, lifting with your legs and not bending at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow in to the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once—this is particularly important in the case of heavy, wet snow. Do it in pieces.
  • Proper Equipment. Use a shovel with a handle that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short handle will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier.
  • Safe Technique. Because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can other movements, it is important to avoid this movement as much as possible. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting. This will help avoid the “next-day back fatigue” experienced by people who shovel snow.
  • Pace Yourself. Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically, in addition to drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.