During the winter months, injuries often occur when people are removing snow from their driveways and walkways. It’s important to know how to handle the chore safely to avoid getting hurt.
Consult Your Doctor
Shoveling snow is a physically demanding activity that can strain muscles in the back, shoulders, arms and legs, and can place a large amount of stress on the heart. If you don’t exercise regularly, or if you have any medical issues or concerns, speak with your doctor before a storm arrives and ask if it’s safe for you to shovel snow. If your physician advises against it, arrange to have a family member or friend handle the job for you or hire someone to do it.
Choose the Appropriate Tools and Clothing
Look for an ergonomic snow shovel with a curved or adjustable handle and a lightweight plastic blade to minimize the strain on your body. Choose a shovel that is comfortable for you to use. A shovel that works well for someone who is taller or shorter may not be a good choice for you. Spread sand or salt on the ground to help you avoid slipping.
Wear multiple layers of light, water-repellent clothing, including warm socks, gloves or mittens, a hat and a scarf. Make sure that your hat and scarf don’t interfere with your ability to see the area where you’re working and any vehicles that may pass by. Also, be sure to wear boots with good traction.
Use the Right Technique
Before you get started, warm up your muscles by taking a walk or jogging in place and stretching. Warm, loose muscles are less likely to get injured.
Whenever possible, push snow. If you have to lift, make sure you’re facing the snow. Place one hand on the shovel’s handle and the other closer to the blade to give you stability. Don’t bend at the waist—bend your knees and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight.
Carry the snow to another location to dispose of it. Don’t throw it because you could hurt yourself. Turn your whole body, rather than twisting your back.
Don’t Overdo It
If a large amount of snow is expected, don’t wait until the storm is over and try to shovel it all at once. Instead, go outside several times and remove the snow a little at a time so it doesn’t become too difficult to manage.
Some snow is light and fluffy, but some snow may be much heavier. Take the weight of the snow into account when deciding how much to shovel at one time. Don’t try to lift too much at once.
Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. If you have back or muscle pain or experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms of a possible heart attack, stop shoveling immediately and seek medical help.