It’s Finally Snowing…Lets Talk Shoveling!

While out this week shoveling snow, and yes – it’s going to keep piling up this week, consider some of these tips and considerations compiled by our very own Mark Moeller.

Winter in Park City means  great skiing  and lots of snow…..usually!  Unfortunately, lots of snow also means lots of  shoveling  as well.  Snow shoveling may actually be a blessing in back hurts just looking at this image!

disguise ….if performed correctly.  According to the Surgeon Generals Report, 15 minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate physical activity.  However,  most shoveling is performed incorrectly which can  put lots of stress on your heart  and  low back.  Here at Alpine Sports Medicine, we treat many patients for low back strains and vertebral disc injury resulting from snow shoveling incidents.  Even worse, our local hospitals treat patients for heart attacks  resulting from snow shoveling.  When shoveling snow, consider these Tips if you have any known heart or medical condition:

  • Don’t eat or smoke and avoid caffeinated beverages before going out to shovel snow. These are stimulants and may increase heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict.
  • Pace yourself .  Shoveling  snow is strenuous work!
  • Watch out for ice . Spread salt or sand over the area to improve foot traction if it is slippery
  • If you experience pain of any kind while shoveling, stop  immediately and seek assistance.

As with any job, choosing the correct tool an essential step.  Consider these tips when purchasing your next shovel or heading out to the garage.

  • Choose an ergonomic shovel that has a curved handle. These shovels help you keep your back straighter and reduce spinal stress.
  • Consider a plastic blade shovel instead of metal.  Plastic blade shovels are lighter.
  • Smaller may be better! A shovel with a smaller blade will not be able to scoop as much snow, but  each scoop will weigh much less and place less strain on your back.
  • Consider a push shovel.  Some shovels are specifically designed for pushing snow. It is much easier on your back to push snow rather than  lift it.
  • Spray silicone lubricant on the shovel blade to prevent snow from sticking  to it. The heavier your shovel, the more strain on your back!

Lastly, attempting to use proper body mechanics while shoveling will go a long way in helping prevent  low back injuries. Consider these techniques  to help avoid injury:

  • Limber up and stretch prior to shoveling. Warmed up muscles perform much better.
  • Grip the shovel with good distance between your hands. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift snow.
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart to create a stable base of support
  • Keep your back straighter and bend your knees. Lift with your legs, not your back!
  • Tighten your stomach muscles when lifting the snow.
  • Keep the shovel close to your body…avoid a shovelful of snow with outstretched arms, it just puts more stress on your back.
  • Avoid twisting your body when dumping snow.  Dump the snow in front of you. If you need to dump it to the side, move your feet to turn…don’t just twist!
  • Take smaller scoops of snow… it just weighs less. Especially important  if the snow is wet and heavy.
  • Pace yourself.  A few extra minutes when shoveling the driveway could prevent a few weeks spent in Physical therapy at Alpine Sports Medicine!

Alright, now get out there and shovel the driveway!