’Tis the season for shoveling snow, and for back injuries and visits to the ER. How can you throw out the snow this year without throwing out your back?

Snow shovels

If you have previously suffered a back injury and are prone to repeat episodes, it’s important to follow some guidelines if you try to shovel snow. If you have previously suffered a heart attack and are on cardiac medication, you also need to be careful, since physical exertion can be dangerous.

Little by Little

First, if you know snow is in the forecast and you can plan properly, try to go out several times during the storm and push the snow off of your sidewalks and driveway before it accumulates too much, rather than scooping and lifting after it’s done snowing.

Special shovels that look like plow blades are sold just for this purpose, but if the snow is light and powdery, you can probably do it with a regular shovel. Don’t be tempted by extra-wide shovels with a bar instead of a handle — these will encourage you to try to push a heavier load than you really should.

If you can’t get to the snow until it’s already deep, shovel it in layers. If the snow is a foot deep, scoop off the top 3 to 6 inches, then go back for the bottom layer or two. It’s tempting to try to lift a load that’s too heavy in order to save time, but if you suffer an injury, you’ll lose a lot more time.

Get the Right Shovel

Use a lightweight shovel. Some metal shovels weigh a ton before you even put any snow on them. Get a plastic shovel, and choose a small one, so you’re not tempted to lift a wide load. Even if you had no trouble lifting the weight, a wide shovel is unstable and tends to tip to one side or the other, spilling the load and potentially throwing you off balance causing you to fall and/or injure yourself.

Never twist and throw when you’re shoveling — it’s dangerous. Always use one foot to pivot your whole body. Twisting with a heavy load often results in a lower back injury.

Practice Safe Lifting

Lift with your legs, not your back. What does this even mean? It means don’t bend at the waist to pick up the snow — this puts all the weight on your lower back. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees to scoop up the snow, then straighten your legs to stand up. This puts the weight safely on your leg muscles instead.

The best way to avoid injury or illness from shoveling snow is not to do it at all. Earthworks Landscaping can send a crew to your house to plow and shovel, quickly uncovering all your points of egress so that you can make your way out to work, school, the grocery store or even to a movie. Don’t let snow trap you in your home this winter — call Earthworks today and talk to a snowplow contractor about delegating winter’s most hated chore to someone else this year.