How to Stay Injury-Free Removing Snow - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 21, 2016

How to Stay Injury-Free Removing Snow

How to Stay Injury-Free Removing Snow

You can prevent back pain and injury
while shoveling snow by choosing the right
shovel for you and practicing proper technique.

White, powdery snow is beautiful… until you have to shovel it. That’s because snow removal is an incredibly physical chore – you’re lifting, pushing and sweating to clear your driveway and walkways. To make matters worse, snow removal can put you at risk of back and hand injuries.

Shoveling snow sends thousands of people to the hospital every year, and leaves many others with low back pain. You can prevent back pain and injury simply by choosing the right shovel for you and practicing proper technique.

When shopping for a snow shovel, look for one that is ergonomically correct – these shovels have a curved handle that help you keep your back straighter, thus reducing spinal stress. You should also look for a plastic shovel rather than a metal one – plastic shovels are lightweight, which is great when the snow is heavy enough on its own.

You may think the bigger the shovel, the better since you’d be able to clear more snow with fewer lifts, but it won’t be so good for your back. A smaller shovel means you won’t be able to shovel as much snow per load, but the load will weigh less and putt less strain on your back.

And then there’s shovels designed to push snow. Not only is pushing snow out of the way far easier than lifting it, it will also help prevent you from trying to lift a load you can’t carry.

Your shovel choice is only half of the pain-free back recipe – your technique matters too. Maintain good posture and the natural curve of your spine the entire time you’re shoveling snow.

If you need to lift a shovel full of snow, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend at the knees, not at the waist or back, and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift with your legs. Move with your feet, don’t twist, if you need to move snow to the side. Don’t try to throw snow over your shoulder.

Pace yourself and take breaks to rest and stretch frequently.

Unfortunately, your back isn’t the only thing at risk of injury during snow removal – your hands are too.

When you fire up your snow blower, you know you’ll have snow cleared in no time at all, even sparing your back most of the brunt of the work. But, the convenience of a snow blower also brings the risk of serious hand and finger injury.

You know to never put your hand inside or near the blade while it’s running, but your hands can still get hurt if the snow blower is turned off. If your snow blower get clogged and you turn it off, the blades can still move – although the blades appear to stay still, rotational force builds up with a clog and, when the blockage gets dislodged, the blades get freed up and can rotate a quarter or half a turn. That’s enough movement to cause severe damage or amputation of fingers and hands.

Prevent this devastating injury by never ever using your hands or other body part to clear a clog in your snow blower, even if it’s turned off. If it jams, turn the snow blower off immediately, disengage the clutch and wait for the blades to stop rotating. Use a stick or broom handle to clear the clogged snow.

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