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Posted on 12-13-2013

Winter is officially here. I know this, because I looked out the window and there are almost 6” in of snow on the ground. With all this snow, it’s important that we follow some guidelines on shoveling snow. A majority of cases that come in during the winter time are injuries that occurred while shoveling heavy snowfall. If you feel like you’ve been injured while shoveling, make an appointment to get checked out before it becomes a serious problem.

  1. Stretch first. – Do dynamic stretches before you shovel to get blood flowing to the muscles. These include lunges, upper body twists back and forth, shoulder circles and air squats. Also, roll all your joints to the left and to the right in your neck and your lower back to warm these up as well.
  2. Plan your shoveling out. – Make sure that you’re not going to be moving snow twice. Figure out where you’re going to dump the snow first. That way, you’re not moving piles of snow to get to other snow.
  3. Clean your car first. – Cleaning your car first means that the remaining snow is left on the ground and then gets shoveled out of the way. Don’t wait to do it after, cause that just means extra work.
  4. Maintain good posture. – Use your legs when lifting snow. This is the #1 way to avoid injury while shoveling snow. Keep your back straight and use squatting motions to move snow out of the way. If you reach down the shovel, it gives you a longer lever for lifting the snow. Don’t EVER twist your upper body when throwing snow. Always turn your entire body when removing the snow. The twist motion is what injures most people while shoveling piles of snow.
  5. Take your time – If you finish 5 minutes early, it’s not going to change much. A majority of injuries occur when people are trying to rush through it. Take your time, use good form and you will dramatically reduce the likelihood of being injured.
  6. Always hydrate before and after. – Most people don’t realize how much they sweat while shoveling snow. You can even take a bottle of water out with you, or if you have a camel back, fill it up and drink while you’re shoveling.
  7. Take frequent rests – If you don’t normally work out, you may need to rest often so you don’t overdo it. You’re literally moving hundreds of pounds of snow sometimes and you can easily overexert yourself if you’re not careful.
  8. Start early – It’s a lot less weight to move if you start right after the first snowfall. Removing the snow in small layers puts a lot less stress and strain than waiting for it to pile up a couple of inches.
  9. Stretch when you’re finished – Now that your muscles are all warmed up, make sure you get a good round of lower back stretches in when you’re done. 
  10. Ice after shoveling snow – If you feel like you injured yourself while shoveling snow, make sure you put an ice pack on the injured area for 15 minutes. This will help reduce swelling and inflammation and decrease the time it takes to recover.

Follow these 10 tips for shoveling snow this winter and you’ll be well on your way to staying injury free!

  • Dr. Canfield and the Simple Truth team.

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