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Hello Bader Fam! It’s that time of year again. Some of you are already over this white stuff, inwardly cringing about having to deal with this for the next few months. Others, like myself and a few others in the office are harnessing the excitement of small children on a snow day. Bring it! That being said. There is one thing nobody likes to do this time of year. Shoveling. Ew. And none of us are hoping for a shoveling-related injury. So how do we all keep ourselves safe this time of year?

Prior to shoveling it is worth mentioning that this time of year we see an increase in falls. And not just among our older population. Healthy, strong individuals are slipping as well. If there’s a chance your driveway is slippery, winter cleats are a good thing to invest in. Even the simple rubber ones from Reny’s and Walmart will give you better traction. Local parking lots can also be hazardous so it may be a good idea to keep a pair in your car as well.

When it comes to shoveling, make sure your shovel is light weight so it doesn’t put any unnecessary stress on your back. Adjustable shovels are best as you can adjust them to your height. A shovel that is too short will cause you to bend over the shovel before initiating movement. A shovel that is too long will cause you to over arch your back during the release. The perfect size will cause you to bend your knees only slightly while maintaining contact with ground.

Warmup before shoveling. It’s never any fun trudging out into freezing temperatures anyway. Do some full body activities such as marching in place or walking briskly around your house. Preferably while you’re sipping some hot cocoa! Stretch your low back and hamstrings before beginning, as well as your arms and shoulders.

Body mechanics: always keep your face towards the snow you are trying to lift, shoulders always pointing in the same direction as your hips. The biggest mistake most people make when shoveling is bending at the back instead of the hips. Allow the hips to hinge first leading the movement so they are further back than your knees. Keep the chest pointing forward and lifted, while keeping your back straight, just like this kiddo down below. If you’re doing this right both heels shoulder stay on the ground throughout the movement.

Keep your loads light. If you must lift a full shovel (or perhaps the snow is very dense) slide your non-dominant hand down as close to the shovel base as possible, while pushing down on the handle with the dominant hand, creating a teeter-totter effect.  Avoid lifting a heavy load while reaching—pull it close first. Do not twist to unload the shovel, pivot your feet instead to remain square to the load. Keep the weight close to your body to protect your spine. Walk to where you want to deposit the load instead of reaching to protect the back and other joints in the arms. If it’s really heavy take breaks in between. Often we have patients who try to do the whole driveway in one go and it can take a toll. Take some breaks to stretch and check your posture throughout the process.

Once you’re done it’s also worth salting and sanding. Especially if you don’t have winter cleats. Let’s keep those falls to a minimum! If you or anyone you know is a casualty of a shoveling incident give us a call. We’d love to help get you back out there and keep you safe for the rest of this upcoming winter!