Snow Shoveling Tips: How to Avoid Injuries This Year

Person shoveling snow practicing safe snow shoveling tips.

Shoveling snow may be a familiar winter chore, but it may pose some serious health risks if you’re not careful. Cold temperatures, physical exertion and slippery conditions can lead to muscle strain, back injuries and other health issues. Don’t hurt yourself shoveling- follow these safety tips for shoveling snow this winter.

Snow Shoveling Tips: How to Stay Safe and Avoid Injuries

Risk for Heart Conditions

Shoveling snow requires repetitive, physical exertion that can elevate your heart rate and blood pressure. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor and consider getting someone to help you clean the driveway instead. Additionally everyone should learn what the symptoms of a heart attack are to ensure you get the right care should something happen.

Stay Hydrated and Warm

Staying warm means protecting every surface of your body. Use a pair of water resistant gloves with a warm lining, and wear snow boots with good traction. A face mask can help keep you warm and prevent dryness by blocking the cold wind.

Since shoveling can be strenuous physical activity, you may actually get too warm. Dress in layers you can easily remove if you get too hot.

You may not associate the cold with dehydration, but shoveling is a workout that will cause you to sweat. Remember to drink plenty of water before and after you shovel. Staying hydrated helps reduce muscle cramps when you’re shoveling.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Before you go shovel, take ten minutes to warm up your muscles with light stretches. Getting warmed up is crucial to avoid pain in any physically strenuous activity. Neck stretches, shoulder rolls, arm circles, hip stretches and hamstring stretches limber up the muscles you might work out during snow shoveling. This will prevent cramps and muscle pulls while you’re out in the snow.

And when you’re done, cool down with more stretches to minimize soreness the next day. Remember to avoid jerky movements during stretches, and listen to your body for pain. Don’t shovel if you’re experiencing any pain or unusual soreness.

Push, Don’t Lift

Pushing your shovel along the driveway allows you to remove the snow pretty easily. It also eliminates the most common cause of back strain from snow shoveling – lifting. By pushing the snow, you can reduce the amount of strain on your hips, joints and muscles.

Lifting may be necessary if the snow is deep. In this case, shovel the snow in layers. Lift off a few inches at a time, and make sure you’re not using your back to lift. Stand with your feet aligned with your hips. Keep your back straight, knees bent. Lift up with your legs, never your back.

Switch Grips

When you’re shoveling, it’s a good idea to switch your grip and alternate which arm you’re holding the shovel with. This helps prevent overworking one side of your body. Switch sides every ten minutes to avoid excessive strain on your muscles.

Shovel More Often

If you know it’s going to snow for hours or days, don’t wait to get the work done. Instead, head out and shovel the snow every couple of hours. It’s easier to shovel a little bit of snow more often. Fresh snow is light and easier to remove. Frequent shoveling also reduces the chance for snow to compact or turn into ice.

Keep an eye on your roof, too. Getting snow off before it accumulates helps prevent ice dams from forming.

Take breaks throughout the process. The cold temperatures will make your heart race faster than it normally does, so you will get fatigued more quickly.

Use the Right Tools

Using a snow blower is an excellent way to minimize the workload. However, when you have to shovel, choose the right shovel. Look for an ergonomically designed model. These help to reduce the weight load. You are not likely to bend as much, so it’s better for your back.

Get a plastic shovel for most snow shoveling duties. Plastic shovels are generally lighter and easier to maneuver than metal ones. With a lighter tool, you can reduce your load and focus your strength on moving snow and not the shovel. Plastic shovels also are gentler on your pavement, reducing unsightly scratches or gouges.

You may need to have a metal shovel around for tougher, compacted sections that a plastic shovel can’t get through. Manage large blocks of compacted snow by breaking them into smaller chunks.

Removing Snow From Your Car

Before you brush off your car, clear a walking path around it to make the rest of the task easier. Remove any snow that accumulated underneath your car. When you’re shoveling around your car, take care not to hit the side of it with your shovel.

With the area around your car clear, you can start clearing off the snow. Use the brush end of an extendable scraper to get snow off the roof first. Work your way down, and shovel away the fallen snow.

To defrost your windshield, use both front and rear defrosters. Never pour hot water on the windshield as this can cause the glass to crack. De-icing spray can help cut through the ice. Remember to remove any ice buildup on the wipers and washer spouts.

It may seem counterintuitive to shovel snow around your car only to brush more snow back on, but it’s safer to clean when you’re not trudging through potentially slippery snow.

When it comes down to it, snow shoveling can be downright difficult. Keep these safety tips for shoveling snow in mind to prevent injuries this winter season. And if you cannot remove the snow safely, it’s best to hire a professional to help.

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