Winter is synonymous with family gatherings, outdoor activities and picturesque landscapes. However, one of the less enjoyable chores associated with the season is snow shoveling. Emergency rooms each year find themselves filled with injuries associated with shoveling snow and working in the elements. It is our hope that with some advice from Connecticut Orthopaedics, we can help you navigate snow shoveling in the safest possible way. Here are some tips to guide you in this snowy season:

Dress appropriately. Utilize light, layered, water-repellent clothing that provides both ventilation and insulation. Also, make sure cover your head and grab some warm socks. Choose gloves that will keep your hands warm, dry, and blister-free. Wearing waterproof boots will help keep your feet dry and footwear with slip-resistant soles can help you avoid falls.

Think ahead and start early. Consider salting your driveway before snow starts falling; this can help minimize your work. Begin shoveling before the snow builds up, when there is just a light covering on the ground. This may help avoid injuries associated with lifting the heavy, densely packed snow. Therefore, if you are expecting a large storm, it is better to shovel smaller loads of snow every couple hours rather than wait until the storm is over and the driveway is buried.

Warm up. Before you head outside, make time to stretch and warm up your muscles. This can include walking, stretching or any other light exercise.

Choose a shovel that is right for you. The shovels with curved handles can be helpful in allowing you to keep your back as straight possible while shoveling. A shovel with the correct handle length will allow you to slightly bend your knees, slightly flex your back, and be held comfortably while shoveling. A plastic shovel will generally be lighter than a metal one, which can make the work easier. Some people may prefer using a shovel with a smaller blade as it limits the amount of snow you can lift which prevents you from lifting an excessively heavy load. When you grip the shovel, make sure your hands are at least shoulder-width. The distance between your hands will increase your leverage and reduce the strain on your body.

Proper lifting. Pushing the snow is generally safer than lifting it. If you must lift, be sure to do it properly. Squat with your legs shoulder-width apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Avoid bending at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow and walk to where you want to drop it off. Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This would require a twisting motion that stresses your back and could cause injury. Remember that wet snow can be very heavy.

Stay hydrated and pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of liquids while you’re shoveling. Remember to hydrate after you’re done as well. Snow shoveling is an aerobic activity.

Check with your doctor if you have any medical problems. Snow shoveling places a great deal of stress on your body, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, you should speak with your doctor before shoveling.

If you feel any pain, stop immediately.

Remember your neighbors. For those who are able to clear snow, it is always worth remembering neighbors who might not be able to remove the snow themselves. A few minutes of your time can make a big difference for someone nearby. We’re all in this together!

If you do sustain an injury or have any other questions, we are always happy to assist you at Connecticut Orthopaedics. Just call 203-407-3500 to setup a consultation.