Tid Bits of Info
- 1 cubic foot of snow fits on a snow shovel and can weigh as much as 45 pounds.
- Pushing the snow is better than trying to lift and toss it.
- Shoveling snow causes more low back injuries than any other body part.
- Heart attacks (cardiac-related injuries) are the most serious but fortunately only account for 7% of all injuries reported from shoveling snow.
- Seek the advice and treatment from a Physical Therapist if you suffer an injury from shoveling snow.
It is that time of the year again. For many of us, snow is falling, roads are covered, and we’re shoveling snow off our driveways and sidewalks. We don’t train for this winter sport, and some people are ill-prepared for the physical exertion ahead. A few precautions can help reduce the likelihood of injuries from shoveling snow.
Snow has been measured to weigh anywhere from 7 – 30 pounds per cubic foot. Most snow shovels regardless of the shape can hold 1 – 1.5 cubic feet, therefore one shovel full of snow can weigh 7 – 45 pounds not counting the weight of the shovel. Lifting this amount of weight repeatedly can cause major musculoskeletal injuries or more serious cardiovascular attacks.
While snow shovels come in various sizes and shapes, some allow you to work safer and expend less energy. The best shovels have been ergonomically designed with a curved handle that allows for less stress on the low back: the most commonly injured body part. Some of these shovels have a second-hand grip positioned on the shovel’s handle so you do not have to bend over and grab the wooden or aluminum shaft of the shovel. This enables you to maintain a safe anatomical position for the lumbar spine.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid an injury while you shovel snow. Remember that it is an activity that you might not perform very often, therefore going at it too aggressively will predispose you to an injury or something worse.
- Loosen up: make sure that you warm up your muscles with a lite cardiovascular routine and gentle stretching. Start shoveling slowly and progress at your own pace.
- Shovel frequently in a big, long-lasting snow storm. Try to “stay ahead” of the snowfall.
- Use the proper snow shovel. Some can push the snow and some are better designed for lifting it. Push the snow as often as you can because you can maintain a safe low back posture and use.
- Use your legs as much as possible.
- Lift smaller loads of snow and walk the snow to the area to be used to dump it. Don’t try to hoist it because you will most likely use poor body mechanics and expend a great deal of energy.
- Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
In the unfortunate event that you suffer an injury from shoveling snow, seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist. These licensed healthcare professionals will evaluate you and design a treatment plan specifically for your condition. They will help to reduce the acute symptoms and educate you in a way that will hopefully help you to prevent another injury in the future. You might need a referral from your General Practitioner but you do not need a doctor’s prescription for Physical Therapy.
Shoveling snow is a “necessary evil” and can cause a lot of harm if it is not done correctly. Warm up, go slow, use the proper shovel and watch your body mechanics and you should be able to avoid a serious injury and get the job done!