How to shovel snow without breaking your back

When a heavy snowstorm has you reaching for the shovel, a few tips can save your back, neck, and shoulders from injury.

On February 1, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons issued a few health-minded tips for tackling snowy conditions. "Shoveling snow involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting, particularly in wet, heavy snow," said Michael F. Schafer, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "It may be especially vigorous for people who do not regularly exercise, as their backs, shoulder and arm muscles may not be prepared for that level of activity."

A few tips to follow when shoveling snow:

  • Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Consider buying a shovel that is specially designed to prevent too much stooping. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, take small amounts of snow, and lift it with your legs: Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow; holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

New York-based fitness website Fitness Contrarian recommends trying out a few lightweight shovels at your local hardware store to see what feels best for you. Also, let the shovel do the work for you, and shovel snow in small scoops to avoid straining your back. Keep your back straight and avoid rounding or slumping when doing the work.

Read more tips on shoveling the safe way: http://www.fitnesscontrarian.com/snow-shoveling-tips-avoid-back-and-elbow-pain/

More advice on an injury-free winter: http://www6.aaos.org/news/pemr/releases/release.cfm?releasenum=942

Watch videos on strain-free shoveling techniques:
http://www.videojug.com/webvideo/how-to-shovel-snow-without-breaking-your-back
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuyuhXuMPX4

 

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