Nothing is more beautiful and peaceful than a snow covered landscape. However, removing snow from your driveway and walkway can be dangerous. An average shovel of snow can weigh between five and ten pounds. This means that the average driveway causes you to shovel hundreds of pounds of snow. When you shovel snow from your driveway or walkway, you will be doing a lot of bending, twisting and lifting. This coupled with the exposure to cold weather can wreak havoc on your body.

Snow removal can cause serious orthopedic injury and can place stress on your heart. In fact, the US Consumer Safety Product Commission reported that more than 200,000 people were treated for injuries from manual snow and ice removal in 2014. Snow shoveling can stress your spinal structures and cause vertebral disc damage and low back strains. Continue reading to learn important safety tips to follow when shoveling snow.

Proper Dress for Snow Shoveling

The cold air outdoors can be invigorating. Unfortunately, this cold can also numb you, which can prevent you from realizing how tired you are or if an injury has occurred. You can help prevent this by dressing in layers.

Layered clothing allows you to shed a layer of clothing if you get hot. It also helps keep your muscles warm and flexible. Always wear gloves that come up above your wrists. If your wrists become cold, your hands and arms will become cold too. The outer layer of clothing should be breathable and water repellent

Your shoes should have plenty of sole cushioning to help minimize the shock impact from walking on the frozen, snowy ground. Your shoes should have good tread to help prevent slips and falls. To help prevent your feet, ankles, and lower legs from getting cold, wear boots and a pair of cotton socks.

Your Snow Shovel

To help prevent snow from sticking to your snow shovel, spray it with Teflon. When snow sticks to the snow shovel, the risk of injury increases. The snow shovel should have a curved handle and be chest high. This will allow you to remain upright when shoveling snow. If the snow shovel is too short, you will need to bend over. If the shovel is too tall, the weight of the snow will be heavier.

Timing is Everything

Before you head outdoors, check out the weather. It is best to wait until the afternoon when temperatures are warmer. Additionally, in the morning the fluid pressure in your discs are increased due to inactivity during sleep. It is better to shovel when there is just a light covering of snow on your driveway or sidewalk. This will cause you to shovel more than once; however, it greatly reduces the possibility of injury due to shoveling, heavy, packed snow.

Warm Ups and Cool Downs

Snow shoveling will work a variety of muscles; therefore, it is essential that you warm up before snow shoveling. Stretching your muscles will help prevent injuries and fatigue. Cold, tight muscles are easier to injury than those that are warmed up. The few minutes you spend warming up can save you tons of trouble.

Warming up with a brisk walk for five to ten minutes and then stretching out your lower back and leg muscles with some gentle stretches (squats and lunges) can help. To limber your upper back and shoulders hug yourself and hold the position for a minute. In addition to this, doing a few neck rolls and shoulder rolls will ensure that your upper body is warmed up.

Snow shoveling is a form of aerobics. Because of this, you should rest periodically. During your rest time, drink some water to help avoid dehydration. Before you begin again, do a few stretches to get your blood flowing to your muscles.

Once you have finished snow shoveling, it is essential that you cool down. Cooling down after a workout helps avoid muscle pain. A cool down period also helps your breathing and heart rate to return to normal. Put up your snow shovel and walk around for about 10 minutes.

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Proper Snow Shoveling Techniques

It is better to push the snow out of the way rather than lifting it. If you must lift the snow, spread your legs shoulder width apart and bend your knees while keeping your back straight. Keep your core muscles engaged to help protect the back from injury. Then lift with your legs rather than you back.

Because a shovel full of snow is heavy, you should avoid throwing snow over your shoulder. Grip the handle with one hand close to your body and the other hand closer to the end of the shovel to help evenly distribute the weight and keep your center of gravity. Avoid sudden twists and use a scissor stance. Work for a few minutes with your right foot forward and then work a few minutes with your left foot forward.

Know Your Limitations

Your fitness and age should be taken into consideration when shoveling snow. Those who are out of shape, elderly or have medical conditions should discuss snow removal with their physician prior to the snowy season. It is essential that you avoid overdoing it as snow shoveling can cause injury if not performed properly.  In addition, anti-inflammatory supplements can help reduce pain and soreness?

Following the advice in this article can mean the difference between enjoying the beauty of a snowy landscape and a trip to the chiropractor’s office or emergency room.

About Author:

Dr. Vishal Verma specializes in functional chiropractic care at Rose Wellness Center in Oakton, Virginia.  He focuses on treating root causes of chronic and acute pain using gentle chiropractic, physical therapy, cold laser therapy, and rehabilitation for fast effective results.  Common conditions treated include back, neck, spine and joint pain, sciatica, fibromyalgia, and sports injuries.

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