Winter has arrived in the North County, and the snow will not be leaving us anytime soon. Not everyone has access to plows or snow blowers, which leaves us with one last snow removal tool, the shovel. Shoveling snow can be a physically intensive activity, and should be treated as one.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2015, more than 158,000 people were treated in an emergency room, doctor’s office, and clinics for injuries that happened while removing snow or ice manually. In order to prevent these types of injuries, you can follow some of these steps.
Since shoveling snow is an intense physical activity, a proper warm up should be performed prior to shoveling. A proper warm up is about 10 minutes of light exercise, or movements to get the blood flowing to all of your muscles. Once the warm up is completed, you can move on to the fun part of manual snow removal, shoveling. In the event of a snow storm, shoveling multiple times throughout the storm is your best bet, rather than letting all the snow pile up. The more snow we have to move, the more exertion we require.
Depending on the area needed to be cleared of snow, shoveling can take a very long time, so it is important to pace yourself, stay hydrated, and listen to your body. During the process of shoveling, proper technique is essential. While we always aim to push the snow rather than lift the snow, this is not always an option. Should you need to lift the snow up for removal, place one hand as close to the area where the blade meets the shaft, and the other spaced apart, which provides leverage. Rather than lifting with your back, use your legs to pick up the shovel and snow and toss the snow directly in front of the shovel. Twisting motions or throwing the snow over your shoulder can cause extra strain on the lower back, which is a common shoveling injury.
While warm up, proper technique, and pacing are important for injury prevention, preparation for the harsh winter conditions is equally as important. Since you will be intensively exercising, it is recommended to wear light, breathable layers with a waterproof shell. If you feel that you are becoming too hot while shoveling, you can always shed layers. We want to stay warm, dry, and covered up to avoid problems like hypothermia and frostbite. A hat that covers the ears, as well as gloves or mittens is also recommended to protect your head and hands from the elements. Shoveling is an excellent form of exercise, but can come with many risks. By following these steps, you can greatly reduce your chance of injury during shoveling, and work your way towards the weekly recommended amount of physical activity!
Photo of Phillip Bridges shovels the driveway of his new home courtesy USAF photo gallery.