Though the numbers aren’t staggering, a hand full of people die each year around the first heavy snow falls. More prevalent is the occurrence of shoveling induced back pain. Electric or gas powered snow throwers are helpful in reducing cardiac stress and low back pain but they too have their own inherent dangers. Be aware! It’s not only the hard work that can cause death and injury but the extreme temperatures.
Strenuous physical activity raises the blood pressure but, working in cold temperatures can make it soar. Healthy body will naturally constrict its blood vessels in the skin and the heart will slow as a response to the cold. In an unhealthy body, not only will there be a blood vessel constriction but, the heart may even speed up. If there is any blockage in the coronary vessels surrounding the heart, a heart attack may result. If you don’t suffer from a heart attack, you might experience back pain.
Snow shoveling forces you to lift a heavy load at a distance from your center of gravity while in a bent over position. Combine the forward flexed back, a heavy load and twisting to toss the load over the shoulder and the stress on your back is compounded. There are some safety tips you should always follow when shoveling.
Shoveling Safety Tips:
Prior to Shoveling
1. Avoid coffee, cigarettes and decongestants that contain caffeine. These will speed the heart and constrict blood vessels.
2. Do some light exercises (jumping jacks, arm swings and stretches). This will supply the muscles with oxygen and nutrients in preparation for activity.
3. Dress in layers. You can remove some clothing as you warm up.
1. Choose the right shovel. Size of shaft will be determined by your height and will prevent you from performing excess bending over. One hand is on the handle the other should be approximately 18” from the blade. The size and weight of the blade will determine the size of the load you pick up.
2. Shovel straight ahead.
3. Pivot feet when handling a load. If you twist at the waist with your feet planted your asking for back pain.
4. Lift small loads. Heavy loads can cause early fatigue and improper body mechanics leading to potential low back injury.
5. Take frequent breaks.
6. If it hurts, STOP.
The owners of snow throwers aren’t necessarily exempt from becoming injured. Though the risk of heart attack and back injury decreases, hand and finger injuries such as cuts and even amputations are a concern. According to the U.S. Consumers Product Safety Commission, nearly 3,000 people were injured by snow throwers.
Snow Thrower Operation Tips
1. Keep your hands out. Moving blades can cost you a finger or hand.
2. Use a stick. Snow jams should be cleared with a stick or pipe after machine has been turned off.
Prepare yourself for the white stuff. You don’t necessarily need to buy a snow thrower which may cost from $200-$1,000. Shoveling can be an effective snow removal method if you’re smart about it. Follow the safety tips and know when enough is enough.