With what has been described as the heaviest snowfall since the Feb. 2011 blizzard, it's time to bust out the shovels and get to work clearing our driveways and sidewalks.
But with as much as 8 inches of snow on the ground, and more in other places, shoveling can lead to a serious back injury if not done properly.
So, how can you prepare to shovel snow safely to avoid injuring yourself?
"Since shoveling snow is definitely considered moderate exercise, people need to check with their physician to see if they should even shovel snow, especially if they have a heart condition or do not exercise regularly," says Valerie Paluszak, Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. "If they are cleared to shovel, they need to take precautions to avoid hurting themselves — especially their lower back, which is one of the most common injuries that often occurs from shoveling snow."
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these snow-shoveling injury prevention tips:
- Dress appropriately by wearing slip-resistant shoes and light, layered, water-repellent clothing that provides both ventilation and insulation.
- Warm up with some light stretch exercises.
- Push snow. And if you have to lift snow, use the stronger leg muscles for support, not the back.
- Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side because the twisting motion may stress your back.
- Shovel early and often. The amount of snow that has to be removed is less and keeps it from freezing or partially melting and becoming harder to remove.
- Use a proper snow shovel with a pole that is longer, adjustable, and curved to decrease the amount of bending needed to lower your risk of muscle injury. More user-friendly shovels are typically made of lighter materials such as plastic or lightweight aluminum.
- Pace yourself and take frequent breaks. Don’t shovel more than 30 to 60 minutes, just like you would during a regular exercise session.