Shoveling Safety Tips

January 5, 2015

Now that winter finally seems to be in full gear, it might be helpful to many to receive a few shoveling safety tips and information. Using a snow blower is best, but not everybody has one. Most of us already know that shoveling snow is always a hassle and often hard work. One of the most important things when getting started is to make sure you have the proper equipment.

Warm clothes are often important during the winter months, but especially while spending considerable time outside while shoveling. Most people already know this, but what are overlooked by many are the benefits of a good scarf. A scarf is very helpful for keeping the neck warm and so preventing tension across the upper back and shoulders. Boots or shoes with very good grips are also important. While you don’t want to overstrain yourself it’s nice to avoid slipping and falling too. We at Reinecke Chiropractic of Sioux Falls treat as many injuries from falls while shoveling or snow blowing as we do from shoveling overwork strains.

As for what makes a proper shovel the handle is perhaps the most important thing to consider. Shovels with a curved handle allow you to shovel without as much bending as with a straight handled shovel. It’s also better to have a plastic blade rather than a metal one as plastic is lighter. Metal may be sturdier, but if you’re working the blade hard enough that it being damaged is an issue, you’re working your back that badly too. Finally, a smaller blade may often be helpful as it prevents one from taking on more than they should. Of course, a person can bypass this by playing it safe and making a conscious effort not to overload their shovel and thus strain their backs, but sometimes the thought of finishing early by shoveling harder is just too tempting. And again, if you’re dressed warmly enough you won’t have to feel like you’re in a hurry.

Technique is also extremely important. Be sure that when lifting snow that you lift at the knees. Try and keep your hands about 12 inches away from each other on the shovel so as to get good leverage both when lifting and moving the snow. Also, if you have to carry the snow before tossing it, carry it with the snow close to your body so that all that good leverage isn’t having a negative effect by putting the pressure on your spine for too long. Finally, when you do throw the snow, never throw it over your shoulder; only use a frontal toss.

Also keep in mind that just because shoveling is a chore doesn’t mean it isn’t also exercise and should be treated as such. Warm up for a few minutes beforehand with stretches and a short jog in place. Taking a break or two (or more for big jobs) to rest and stretch again will also be very helpful at preventing injuries. I hope you all have an enjoyable winter and that you all stay safe and healthy.

--Joshua J. J. Jorde D.C.