Friday, February 1, 2013

Clear Your Pathways Without Hurting Your Back

Falling snow looks peaceful as it lies tranquilly on the ground, but that innocent white precipitation can be heavy!

In reality, one cubic foot (one shovel full) of light, fluffy snow can weigh seven pounds. Fill that shovel with drifted and compacted snow, and you’re looking at up to 20 pounds. If you’re not shoveling properly, you’re asking for trouble for your back.

First things first… traction, traction, traction. The tips that follow are completely moot if your footwear doesn’t grip and you’re sliding all over the place.

1. Warm up beforehand. Maybe walk in place for a few minutes, then do a few lunges, torso twists and stretches. While you’re outside, take breaks to stretch to keep your back limber. Working out little kinks in your back before shoveling will reduce the risk of hurting it.

2. Don’t wait for the snowfall to be over before shoveling. The more snow you allow to pile up, the tougher it is to shovel. So if it’s storming, you may think multiple “shifts” of shoveling are a pain, but back pain is worse.

3. Choose the correct shovel. The right tools make the job easier. Try a lightweight, scraping shovel, preferably something in a tough-but-lightweight plastic Create a center path in the driveway or sidewalk. Then move the snow out to the sides from that center path. Don’t hesitate to try one out in a store to make sure it’s the proper size and weight for your comfort.

photo credit: K. Landerholm via photopin
4. On a related note… Push the snow rather than throw it. If you throw the snow, that could mean twisting your torso, which can put strain on your back. Push the snow whenever possible.

5. Bend at the knees. The right posture protects your back. Keep the legs bent, and your back straight.

6. Know your limits. If you feel tired or short of breath, take a break and give yourself a breather. Stop immediately if you feel back pain or chest pain. Your neighborhood probably has no shortage of teenagers looking to make a couple bucks shoveling driveways… just make sure they’re shoveling properly, too.

7. Cool down properly. Most people probably don’t think of this, but just plopping down on the couch after you come in isn’t the best idea. Just lying on your back for a few minutes can help your muscles cool down in a more appropriate position.

Just remember that the time you invest in shoveling properly can help you focus on other things afterwards, without risking downtime due to a sore back.

Stay warm, and thanks for reading!

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