Conditions set up just right Tuesday to throw out your back – or worse – if you're not properly prepared to shovel away wet, heavy snow .
Chadd Soto, manager of wellness services at Independent Health, offered the following advice for those who will spend time outdoors cleaning up in the aftermath of a storm that left a foot or more of snow in many parts of Western New York.
“Whether it’s exercise outdoors or shoveling the driveway, it’s really important you warm up properly first,” Soto said. “If you just walk out into the cold and your body’s stiff, you have a greater tendency to pull a muscle, throw your back out, strain a muscle.”
Before you go out, stretch or do some sort of light walking in a neutral environment indoors, he said. “Bring your body temperature up a little bit and your respirations and your heart rate.” If you just walk outside, grab a shovel, stick it in the snow and lift 5 pounds, you raise the risk of injury.
UNDERSTAND YOUR HEALTH RISKS
If you have a heart issue, consult your doctor before rigorous shoveling: “When you talk about exercise, shoveling is a tough one,” Soto said. “Shoveling a driveway exerts a lot of energy. If you’re not fit or healthy, or have a lot of back problems, you need to consider that in a big way because it can cost you your life.”
Those who get any type of regular physical activity gain better balance and proprioception – “knowing where you are in space and time, and not having to think about it,” Soto said. “When you get into a situation where you’re stepping outside in the wintertime and it’s a little bit icy or a little bit slick, your body’s more prepped to handle that. Starting an exercise program from a falls perspective ... your body’s so much more conditioned to support you.”
“It’s so important people have proper form while you’re shoveling,” Soto said. Bend from your legs and use the legs to move the snow upward and put where needs to be.
“Where people injure themselves is when they keep their legs straight, use their lower back when they dig into the snow and pick it up using all the forces in their lower back,” Soto said. “You really want to stay in a form where you’re using your legs for the brunt” of the work.
It’s also better to throw the snow forward, not twist or spin and throw it over your back.
“That will prevent you from falling,” Soto said. “And twisting is never good on the lower back when you have a 5-pound weighted shovel at the end of a pendulum.”
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