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Shoveling Tips to Save Your Body

It's that time of year when we check our weather apps more often in anticipation of snow. Those beautiful flakes fly with such a double-edged sword, right? We want them at certain times because they deliver such magic, and we absolutely loath them at other times. There is nothing better (in my opinion) than a breathtaking blizzard that drops several inches of white fluffy snow. However, this does require some work on our part - shoveling, ugh!

Just the mention of the word "shoveling" instills various emotions. From the fear of injury to resentment for having to do it all yourself to worry about getting to work on time. It can be REAL stressor!

I'm here today to help alleviate a few of those shoveling stressors. BEFORE the snow flies and you MUST Shovel, READ THIS!

Top Shoveling Injuries & How to Avoid Them

Did you know that more than 11,000 people are sent to the hospital every year because of a shoveling injury? According to an article written on WebMD by Kelli Miller, about a 17-year study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, the most common snow shoveling injuries are:

  • Overworking your muscles, falling, and being hit with the shovel were the most common reasons for getting hurt.

  • Muscle, ligament, tendon, and other soft tissue injuries topped the list of snow shoveling mishaps. Among these, lower back injuries were common.

  • Other common snow shoveling injuries included cuts and broken bones. The arms and hands were the most likely body regions to sustain a bone fracture.

  • Heart-related problems made up only 7% of snow shoveling injuries. However, all deaths due to snow shoveling were caused by heart problems.

Here are a few tips to avoid injury and even a trip to the hospital!

  1. Warm-up (Try our 5-minute shoveling warm-up listed below)

  2. Wear ice cleats (like THESE) - These clever cleats are highly rated to prevent slipping falls. Just size up to better fit your boots.

  3. Start early and perform in intervals - If snow is in the forecast, plan to shovel early. Keep up with it doing a few inches at a time versus tacking several inches at one time.

  4. Use an ergonomic shovel, like THIS one. The aluminum one has better durability reviews than the poly one.

  5. Use proper form & mechanics (see details below)

  6. Take frequent breaks - Listen to your body and don't work through any pain. If you feel pain, change it up. Stop and think about how you can push the snow instead of lifting it. Consider only doing what you need to and remember it doesn't have to be or look perfect.

  7. Ask for help - especially if you currently have body aches and pains or prior injury history. The most significant predictor of future injury is a past injury!

  8. NEVER twist and throw the snow over your shoulder! Instead, push the know and only lift if you need to. When lifting, limit your load (especially if the snow is wet & heavy) and bend your knees using your leg muscles instead of your back.

Save Your Back and Shoulders with This 5 minute Shoveling Warm up!

  1. Leg Swings - While standing, hang onto a nearby wall (or your shovel) and slowly swing your leg forward and back 10-20 times per leg. This will warm up your hamstrings that are about to do a lot of work!

  2. Air Squats - Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and your toes turned slightly outward. Bend both knees as low as you comfortably can, making sure to stick your backside out. Repeat 10-15 times. Feel free to hang onto a nearby wall or countertop so you can warm up without worrying about your balance or control.

  3. Windmills - Stand with your feet as wide as you comfortably can and your arms straight out to the sides. Take a breath in, then reach your right hand towards your left ankle and your left hand to the sky while you exhale. Repeat to the other side for 5-10 reps.

  4. Shoulder Circles - Stand tall and make big backward circles with your arms. Continue for 5-10 reps and then repeat in the forward direction.

  5. Neck Stretches - Stand tall and make slow half circles with your head. Tip your head to the right, slowly roll your chin to your chest, followed by tipping it to the left. Repeat back and forth 5-10 times.

Learn the BEST Ways to Move Your Body When Shoveling

The way you move your body when shoveling can make all the difference and save you from the most common shoveling injury, low back strain. Follow these few tips to move better.

  1. Keep your spine straight - Rounding the spine is by far the most common mistake. We often shovel early in the morning or late night when we are likely the most tired. Slouching and rounding our low backs can be easier as we allow gravity to push us into this provocative position. However, this is a simple adjustment. All you need to remember is to stick your butt out and lift your chest. These movements will create a slight inward curve of your lower back which keeps your precious discs happy.

  2. Hinge at your hips - Sticking your butt out is the first step to hip hinging. Next, you need to maintain a straight spine while bending your torso forward. It does take practice for many people. Therefore, this is a good thing to practice before you head out.

  3. Bend your knees - Whenever you are lifting a load, you must bend your knees. Your leg muscles are thicker and shorter than your back muscles. They are anatomically designed to do the lifting. Use them, and your back will thank you!

Avoid twisting with load - Carrying a heavy load of snow while twisting is a recipe for spinal disaster. A good rule of thumb is to face in the direction of where you will be tossing the snow. If you need to move the snow to the side, move your feet and toss it out in front of you.


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