How to Prevent Snow Shoveling Injuries This Winter

Available for Interviews: Dr. Michael Evangel

Dr. Michael S. Evangel, Chiropractic Physician, is the owner of the Chiropractic Wellness Center in Paramus, NJ. For over 30 years, his mission is to provide state-of-the-art, high-quality care to people of all ages.

What Dr. Mike Evangel could say on
Preventing Snow Shoveling Injuries This Winter:

For the past 35 winters, I have seen many patients in my chiropractic practice, who have injured their backs while shoveling snow. There are strategies that you can consider to reduce your chances of having this happen to you.

  1. Make Sure Your Heart Is Healthy. An important consideration prior to attempting any snow shoveling is to make sure that your heart is healthy enough for you to endure that exercise. If you are sedentary or not actively exercising on a regular basis, consult your primary care physician prior to attempting any rigorous activity, which includes snow shoveling. Most of us have heard about someone who died from a heart attack when shoveling snow. Don’t let that person be you!
  2. Start With a Warmup. If your muscles are tight and not warmed up, you will significantly increase your chances of an injury. Warm-up by first doing some light cardio to get your blood flowing, which will also increase your core body temperature. Follow this up by stretching your major muscle groups from head to toe. This is especially important after you wake up in the morning. Your body stiffens up overnight from inactivity.
  3. Get the Right Snow Shovel. Try to use an ergonomic snow shovel or a push snow shovel. Ergonomic snow shovels have a curved handle, which takes a considerable amount of stress off of your low back. If you are very tall or very short, try to get one with an adjustable handle. Snow shovels with a fixed handle length are made for someone of average height. Push shovels are great if the snow isn’t too deep or heavy. If the snow is very deep or heavy, push shovels are not recommended because they require too much exertion and result in an increased chance of injury.
  4. Use Proper Ergonomics. Ergonomics can also be referred to as body mechanics.
      • Whenever you lift anything, the best position to be in would be with your back straight, having the base of your skull over the base of your spine.
      • Try not to throw the snow over your shoulder. The twisting motion can cause micro-tears in your spinal discs and eventually can lead to a disc bulge or a disc herniation.
      • Try to rotate a shovelful of snow, so that the snow falls off of the shovel.
      • If that doesn’t work for your situation, try to throw the snow forward, with your back as straight as possible. This can be done by using your legs and forward body momentum.
      • Try to keep the amount of snow to a moderate amount with each shovel. Don’t try to lift too much at once.
      • For most people, it is best to have their hands about shoulder-width apart on the snow shovel, while shoveling snow.
  5. Stay Hydrated. You can easily get dehydrated from sweating too much or from not drinking enough fluids. Dehydration can cause a lower blood volume, which thickens your blood and can cause an unwanted strain on your heart as well as increasing the chances for a blood clot to form. Avoid drinking alcohol when shoveling snow. Alcohol reduces the ability of your blood to carry oxygen and doesn’t keep you warm as some people think. Try not to drink coffee either, Caffeine may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow.
  6. Don’t Shovel on an Empty Stomach. If you shovel on an empty stomach, you could get a drop in your blood sugar, which will reduce your productivity, make you feel weak, and possibly could lead to fainting when coupled with overexertion. If possible, eat a light and easily digestible meal about an hour before shoveling. Don’t overeat, since digesting a big meal will shunt blood to your digestive system and away from your heart and skeletal muscles.
  7. Pace Yourself. Try to work at a slow and steady pace, with breaks when you feel like you need them. If you are breathing too hard, you need to slow down.
  8. Don’t Get Overheated. Wear layers of clothing and a hat. You can add or remove layers so that you are warm, but not sweating profusely. If you sweat too much, you could become dehydrated and raise your core body temperature to a dangerous level.
  9. Get Good Waterproof Boots. One with soles that don’t slip is best. This is a great investment in your comfort and safety.
  10. Keep Up with the Storm. If there is a major storm, it is better to shovel several times during the storm, instead of waiting until it is over. If you must shovel deep snow, do it in layers.
  11. Use a Snowblower. Make sure that you are not trying to blow snow that is deeper than what the blower was designed to handle. That mistake can cause considerable stress on your back because of the resistance of the snow while pushing the snowblower.
  12. Reduce the Risk of Slipping. Using sand, salt, and kitty litter on your sidewalk or driveway will increase traction and reduce the likelihood of anyone slipping and falling. Remember to use calcium or magnesium chloride on sidewalks because they don’t break down the cement-like rock salt will.

The ultimate avoidance of a low back injury from snow shoveling is to have someone else do your snow removal. After all, you will never lose a fight that you are not in!


Interview: Dr. Michael Evangel

Dr. Michael S. Evangel owner of Chiropractic Wellness Center. His practice specializes in treating a variety of conditions, from clinical nutrition to chronic low back and neck pain, to rehabilitation following an accident or injury. Other focuses include improving your diet, what supplements to take, avoiding toxins, creating a healthier workplace, and increasing the overall quality of your health. Dr. Evangel is a former science teacher with a master’s degree in environmental health.

Jo Allison
Managing Editor
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

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