With much of the U.S. getting its first snowfall of the year, people in many areas are getting the white stuff that don’t normally see it.
Clearing the driveway is a rite of passage for many homeowners. According to WebMD.com, snow shoveling injuries send more than 11,000 adults and children to the hospital every year.
Not to sound like a medical disclaimer, but a number of injuries, and even death, can occur while shoveling. Many of the injuries, of course, involve slip and falls, but many are due to technique and the physical demands.
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Lower back injuries, ranging from back spasms to much more serious herniated disks
- Heart-related issues, which accounted for all deaths
- Head injuries due to flying snow shovels, most victims are children
Why injuries occur
Believe it or not, shoveling snow is great exercise. You’re using every muscle in your body from legs to arms to core to your heart. (Yes… it’s cardio exercise, too!)
The problem is that people don’t use the proper technique – or the proper tools – when shoveling. Most snow shovels are not long enough and not ergonomically designed for efficient use.
How to limit injuries
The cardinal rule when it comes to shoveling snow is to practice a bit of common sense.
- Stay in shape – People who are physically fit have less concern about injury.
- Stretch beforehand – Warm up the legs, back and shoulders.
- Take breaks – Don’t do it all at once. Shovel small areas and take an occasional break, especially if it is wet, heavy snow.
- Use proper technique – Use the shovel like a bulldozer, rather than a scoop. Use your legs rather than your back. Don’t rotate or twist your body.
- Use the right shovel – Ergonomically designed shovels with bent handles take the stress off the back.
- Wear layers – Keeping your muscles warm will help you avoid strain.
- Wear proper footwear – Wear snow boots with good traction to avoid slipping.