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Shovel Safely this Winter

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Every winter season, thousands of property owners around North America are injured while snow shoveling. For older adults and seniors, snow shoveling has become a particularly worrisome chore, since we are far more susceptible to injury and illness in our old age.

The two big pain-signs to watch for while you’re shoveling this winter are:

  • Back pain
  • Chest pain

The Condition of Our Health

For those of us who eat healthy, exercise on a regular basis and practice good posture daily, the risk of injury during snow shoveling is not as great as for those older adults who live a sedentary lifestyle with poor diets and bad posture. But – none of us are in the clear entirely! We need to be careful and take the necessary precautions to prevent injury.

A Few Snow Shoveling Recommendations

  1. Don’t wait for the snow to pile up before you decide to make your way outside. Shovel small amounts at a time.
  2. Purchase a light shovel made for pushing (not lifting). Plastic shovels are the lightest.
  3. Don’t lift the snow, but rather push it. Put your body weight into the pushing action to avoid using too much of any other muscle group.
  4. If you must lift the snow, be sure to lift small amounts and bend low with your knees – not your back. Avoid lifting over very large snow banks.
  5. Even though it may sound silly, stretch before you shovel or do a light warm-up on the treadmill downstairs. Snow shoveling is a physical activity just like any other and it’s best if your body is prepared for it.
  6. Take breaks. If you feel overexerted, stop for a few minutes and go back out when you’re ready.

Most importantly: if you experience severe chest pains while you’re shoveling, contact a medical doctor immediately. If back pain persists a day or two after shoveling, see your local practitioner.

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