If you're a new homeowner your experience with shoveling snow might be limited. As a homeowner, it may be wise to learn how to shovel smarter. This will help you to avoid back injury and pain that shoveling can cause. In fact, shoveling is one of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months. However, this type of injury is easily preventable if you know the best ways to remove snow without straining your back.
The following snow removal tips can help you avoid low back injuries and pain during the snowy winter season.
Buy the Correct Kind of Snow Shovel—yes, it's true
An ergonomic snow shovel can help take some of the effort out of snow removal chores.
- A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize painful bending, requiring you to bend your knees only slightly and arch your back very slightly while keeping the shovel blade on the ground.
- A small, lightweight, plastic blade helps reduce the amount of weight that you are moving.
Warm Up Your Muscles—shoveling is a workout
Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Do your back a favor by warming up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or any strenuous activity.
- Get your blood moving first by walking around the yard for a bit before shoveling.
- Stretch your lower back and hamstrings (the large muscles in the back of the thigh) with some gentle stretching exercises.
- Limber up your arms and shoulders with a body hug that you hold for 30–60 seconds.
Work smarter—not harder
Whenever possible, push the snow to one side rather than lifting it. When lifting the snow shovel is necessary, make sure to use ergonomic lifting techniques:
- Always face towards the object you intend to lift. Have your shoulders and hips both squarely facing it.
- Bend at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
- Keep your shovel loads light and do not lift an amount that is too heavy for you.
- If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle (handle and arm length will vary the technique).
- Try not to twist the back to move the snow to its new location. Always pivot your whole body to face the new direction.
- Keep the heaviest part of the load close to your body at your center of gravity. Do not extend your arms to throw the snow.
- Keep your hands about 12" apart as you grip the shovel. This gives you better stability and reduces the chances of low back pain and injury.
Owning your first home is both exciting and full of new responsibilities and tasks. But with a little advice and practice, you will be a pro at taking care of your new abode.