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Proper Lifting Techniques for Snow Shoveling

Man shoveling snowWinter is right around the corner, which means snow, ice and cold temperatures here in Winnipeg. Each year, our city gets about 114 centimetres of snow. Although we’re not the snowiest city in the world, we all spend our fair share of time outside shoveling.

Using proper lifting techniques when shoveling snow can help you avoid a trip to your chiropractor. Here are some tips to help protect your back this winter.

Choose an Ergonomic Shovel

One of the best things you can do to protect your back is to buy the right shovel.

  • A small and light shovel will force you to lift lighter loads, which will minimize the strain on your back.
  • A shorter handle will make it easier to dump the snow. If you’re pushing snow instead of lifting, go with a longer handle.

It may be worthwhile to buy both types of shovels, so you can switch between the two when necessary.

Warm Up First

Shoveling is a difficult exercise. You’re lifting or pushing heavy snow, and depending on the weather, you may be shoveling repeatedly throughout the day.

Treat shoveling just like any other form of exercise. Warm up your body before you head outdoors and get to work. Stretching and 3-5 minutes of cardio can help you get ready for the task ahead.

  • March in place
  • Do jumping jacks
  • Go for a brisk walk (indoors or outdoors)
  • Use gentle stretches to warm up your hamstrings and lower back

Taking a few minutes to warm up before you start shoveling may help prevent injuries.

Use Proper Shoveling Techniques

When shoveling snow, there are three important things to remember if you want to protect your back:

  • Keep your back straight
  • Keep the shovel close to the body
  • Don’t twist your back

When bending down to shovel, make sure that you’re bending at the hips and knees. Don’t round or hunch your back. When bending, push your chest out to point forward.

When lifting snow, use your legs – not your back.

Shovel Light Loads

If possible, push the snow instead of lifting it and tossing it into a pile. If you have to lift, keep the loads light.

Instead of tossing the snow to the side, toss it into a pile in front of you. This will help you avoid twisting and possibly injuring your back.

If you must lift a heavier load of snow, grip the handle with one hand as close to the blade as possible and the other a comfortable distance away (12″ for greater stability). Make sure that the heaviest part of the object is as close to your body as possible.

Avoid extending your arms to throw snow. It’s better to walk to a new location than reach out and toss the snow.

Keep Your Feet Planted on the Ground

Shoveling in slushy or icy snow can be dangerous. Slips and falls can strain or injure your back. To help prevent slips and to practice proper body mechanics while lifting, make sure that your feet are planted firmly on the ground.

  • Wear boots or shoes with good treads to reduce the risk of slipping and falling.
  • Try spreading rock salt, sand or cat litter across your walkways and driveway to improve traction and reduce the risk of slipping.

Depending on how much snow is falling, shoveling can be an exhausting task. Make sure that you’re taking regular breaks to rehydrate, stretch and of course come see us if you’ve injured yourself!

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