During a snowstorm, there’s little to be gained by watching the News and their continued stories of reporters standing outside telling you that snow is falling. Every year people suffer injuries due to shoveling – from minor sprains to fatal heart attacks. But there are a few things to remember when shoveling, and the same things apply to lifting weights. So here are a few helpful tips for shoveling out after the storm that can help to prevent back or shoulder injuries.
Factors to consider:
1) What’s the temperature? This matters because of the kind of snow you’re going to shovel. Wet snow (higher temperature 29-36 degrees) obviously weighs more than lighter snow (28 degrees and below), and you may need a few passes at it – even during the storm. If its mixed with freezing rain or sleet, that too will add to the weight. Paying attention to the storm temperature can make shoveling easy or very difficult. Sometimes it pays to wait for the rain or sleet to finish before starting, and the reason is that although it makes the snow heavier, it will prevent an enormous amount of black ice forming if sleet or rain falls on recently cleared areas.
2) Tools for the job – Having either push shovels are great for light snow, or flatter shovels for removing big amounts in layers will make the difference. Ice breakers and road salt (calcium carbonate) also come in handy too.
3) Your health – Let’s face it, shoveling is exercise and should be viewed as such. If there’s a lot to clear, take breaks. If you haven’t exercised in some time, don’t expect miracles out of yourself. Afterall, about 100 people a year die from shoveling snow – most likely attributed to hidden coronary artery disease, so pay attention to your own body.
The pervasive mind-set is that once you start, you MUST get it done, and that’s when problems start. So take those breaks every now and then. Expect to feel some muscle soreness in your back and shoulders. And for those who DO exercise, you know what I’m talking about. No one is going to criticize you for stopping every now and then. If you should feel ANY pain, shortness of breath, heavy sweating or light-headedness, STOP! Pre-disposing risk factors include past heart problems, heart attack, sedentary lifestyle and smoking history. So be mindful of your limitations AND expectations!
4) Technique – Shoveling out requires lifting and twisting – two things your back can only handle in moderation. When shoveling, lift with your legs and then step to the side to discard the snow. Your legs should be 4-5 times stronger than your back with regard to lifting, so keeping your knees straight while shoveling will pretty much guarantee a visit to a chiropractors office SOMEWHERE! As mentioned above, if the snow is that heavy or there’s just so much of it, it’s best to shovel in layers.
4) Size of the area to clear – Obviously a snow-thrower or plow would be great if you have a lot to clear but if you don’t, doing things in stages is helpful. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon…be smart and drink water afterward as you would with any exercise.
As mentioned, machines are fantastic in this capacity, and so are the neighborhood kids who come by offering to shovel for a few bucks. At some point it might be worth considering imposing on – or hiring – others to help out.