The first step to shoveling safely, without injuring your back, is having the right shovel. There are ergonomic snow shovels that can help take some effort out of shoveling. Certain kinds of shovels are needed for different tasks. The task that will more than likely be the main cause of back pain is lifting the snow to throw it out of the way. The best shovels for this are the ones with a sturdy handle and scoop. Flimsy shovels will cause a lot more issues than they solve. As you pick out a sturdy shovel you also have to consider the weight of the shovel and especially the scoop. The metal scoop shovels are nice and sturdy, but the extra weight may result in back injury. They make shovels with bent and curved handles. They both take some of the weight off your lower back, but the curved ones are better than the bent ones for tossing the snow because they take some pressure off your wrists too.
Another way to prevent injuries is to stay warm when shoveling and be warm before you go out into the cold. Warm and flexible muscles will help reduce the risk of injury compared to tight and cold muscles. It is a good idea to walk around, stretch, and limber up your arms, legs, and back before going out. Jumping jacks, a brisk walk, or marching in place can help with this.
Another way to save your back is to use proper lifting techniques when scooping the snow. Bend at the knees when lifting the shovel full of snow. The further down the handle you grab with your second hand will help with the weight of the snow, but you don’t want to have your arms uncomfortably far apart. Tossing the snow can cause a problem if not done safely. Try to walk the snow somewhere else and drop it rather than tossing it if possible, when you do have to toss the snow pivot with your whole body rather than just your back.
Clothing can also keep you safe when shoveling. Having good boots will provide traction to help keep your feet on the ground because lifting isn't the only way to injure your back, slipping and falling can hurt too. Good gloves can help keep your hands warm and also provide grip on the handle of the shovel so it doesn't slip and twist around in your hands.
A final thing to help keep you from injury would be to pace yourself. You don’t win any medals for finishing your sidewalk or driveway first. Moving smaller, manageable amounts of snow is better than trying to move big, strenuous scoopfuls. If the snow is really deep, take if in a few loads by removing a few inches off the top before take a big scoop from the bottom.
A quick recap on staying safe this winter and many winters to come is using a light sturdy shovel, limbering up before braving the cold snow, bend with your knees and twist with your whole body, use good boots and gloves, and pace yourself. If you follow these guidelines your back will thank you and you’ll be able to shovel your way out of whatever Mother Nature will throw at us.
Thank you for your time and attention! Let's make it safe this Monday!
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company