Snow shoveling for dummies
…last night I got stuck in the snow. I guess that connects me with this article title. At least I felt that way last night. My Jeep has gotten me through so much in the mountains around Lake Tahoe. Ooops!…I took on more than I could handle. Stuck in two feet of snow! I tromped through the snow to get my friends snow shovel to dig out my car. The walk gave me time to think.
I wrote a series of articles for my Patient Newsletter about 9 years ago that covered tips for winter back care. I reviewed the tips in my head a bit and then prepared to shovel. After about 10 or 15 minutes of shoveling the thought
that the Tips for a 64 year-old did not apply directly to a 73 year-old guy! Sooo… If I ever get unstuck…revise! However, the last tip was…”Expect the unexpected”. Covered!
ALERT! Seriously though, snow shoveling is a serious event that merits preparation and care. Here are 10 Tips to help protect yourself and your back:
1. Consider hiring a student or using a volunteer service if you are a senior.
2. Try to push the snow straight ahead rather than lifting and throwing it. (difficult in deep snow) Fill shovel with small loads.
3. If lifting the snow, turn and step in the direction you are throwing. Avoid sudden turning and twisting motions, as this puts more pressure on the intervertebral discs in your spine.
4. Walk to the place you are depositing snow rather than throwing it.
5. Lift properly, bending your knees and lifting with your legs rather than your back. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart for balance and tighten your core as your lift to take stress off of your spine. Never bend at the waist! Try to keep your back as straight as possible!
6. Take frequent breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury! [avoid caffeine or stimulants while working in cold weather… Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration ]
7. Stop if you feel pain. You know your body best—listen to it!
8. If you begin having chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing you should stop shoveling. You may need immediate professional help.
Although shoveling snow is a fantastic aerobic workout, there are some that are at increased risk of heart attack due to the increased stress put on the heart.
- Anyone who has already had a heart attack.
- Persons with a history of heart disease.
- Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Those who smoke.
- Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Anyone who meets the criteria above should check with their doctor before taking on the job of shoveling snow.
9. Wear multiple layers and cover as much skin as possible. Wear boots with non-skid/no-slip rubber soles.
10. Spread rock salt, sand or ice melt products over the cleared area to avoid icing
Stretching and loosening up after shoveling workout can decrease the stiffness and pain that comes from overworking the muscles. I pain or soreness persists, see your local chiropractor or other health provider.
P.P.S. It is rumored that hot chocolate and a warm blanket helps a little too.
…Check back for more winter tips…
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