Winter has certainly hit with a vengeance this year. Snowfall records have fallen all along the eastern seaboard. The deep south has seen rare snowstorms. And with several more weeks of winter to go, we can expect to see a lot more of the white stuff across much of the United States.
Snow shoveling is great exercise. But lower back strains and injuries from slips and falls sustained while clearing snow sends thousands of Americans to the doctor or emergency room every year. So whether you love the prospect of a winter wonderland or groan every time you hear a winter weather advisory, take some precautions whenever you venture out into the ice and snow to clean up after a storm.
Here are five ways to help prevent lower back strains and other injuries the next time the snow falls:
1) Warm up before grabbing the snow shovel – Get your muscles moving before putting heavy strain on them. Just 10 minutes of light indoor exercise before shoveling will loosen up your muscles earlier and take the time to loosen up your muscles with some light indoor exercises. Sit ups, crunches, Pilates or other core muscle strengthening exercises are great choices.
2) Stretch before and after shoveling – Stretching muscles before clearing the driveway will help you avoid lower back pain, shoulder injuries and other muscle strains. Pay careful attention to stretching your hamstrings and lower back as they are often the muscles that are already under constant strain due to muscle imbalances and are therefore more prone to injury.
3) Be careful lifting heavy snow – Push snow across with the shovel instead of lifting when possible. When lifting, use the major muscles in your legs. Use an ergonomic shovel to minimize the amount of bending necessary to lift snow. When you must lift the snow, it’s safer to keep the weight of each load lighter, even if it means more shoveling.
4) Take frequent breaks – If you’re out of shape, don’t overdo it. This is where so many people make a mistake and for some, it costs them their life. Shoveling snow provides at least moderate cardio and resistance exercise. Rest as needed, taking the time to stand up straight and bend backwards slightly to stretch out back muscles tired from stooping over.
5) Wear boots with slip-resistant soles – Some of the most traumatic injuries sustained while shoveling are caused by slipping on the ice. Skull fractures, herniated discs, and broken bones can result from a hard landing. Slip-resistant boots or ice and snow traction cleats can help keep you on your feet.