Outdoor Winter Maintenance Does Not Have to Break Your Back.
Winter weather is upon us. Cold, snow, and ice can make the outdoors unpleasant. Snow must be shoveled, icy sidewalks and walkways are slippery, and cars must be cleaned off before driving. These things can all be hard on your back and may lead to injuries if not careful. However, there are things that you can do to prevent outdoor maintenance from being backbreaking. Follow these guidelines to ensure you stay injury free throughout the winter season.
Lift Light, Shovel Right
Improper shoveling habits are to blame for many of the winter maintenance related injuries we see in our office. Shovelling does not need to leave you stiff and sore, proper technique will help keep you injury free during winter maintenance. There are things you can do to prepare for shoveling, and while shoveling that help reduce your risk of injury.
Preparing to Shovel
Drink plenty of water. Despite the cold weather, your body still needs plenty of fluids. Be sure to drink before, during, and after shoveling to give your body the fluid it needs.
Dress in layers and take off layers as you warm up. This helps you adapt to changing temperatures as your body warms up.
Wear good footwear. Proper boots that are waterproof and have good tread will help keep you on your feet during winter maintenance
Choose good equipment. Choose a shovel that is ergonomically correct (curved handle), lightweight, and is a push style.
Warm up before shoveling. Start with a gentle range of motion exercise and take a 5-10 minute walk prior to shoveling to help prepare your body for the work ahead
Ready to Shovel
Push don’t throw the snow. Use your shovel to push the snow to the sides of the walkway or driveway. Then facing the pile straight on, bend your knees and then lift with the legs to lift the snow onto the pile. When moving it to a pile do not twist and turn, position yourself straight onto the pile.
Don’t let the snow pile up. It’s better to tackle large snowfalls in a few small sessions rather than all at once. This will allow you to tackle less snow at once. After a while, you get tired and your form suffers increasing your risk of injury. With the average shovel full of snow weighing 6 pounds, this puts a lot of stress on your back.
Take breaks as needed. If you feel tired or short of breath you may need a break. Shake out your arms and legs to recharge, or do some simple range of motion exercises. Stop shoveling if you experience sudden or prolonged joint or muscle pain. If the pain lasts more than 24 hours consult your chiropractor or massage therapist.
Salt or Sand Those Outdoor Walkways
Watch out for ice during any winter maintenance. Ice can lead to a nasty slip and fall. Intermittent thaws and freezes can lead to ice buildup. Ice increases your risk of a fall and your subsequent risk of injury. Throw down some salt, sand, or ice melt to help provide traction and control the ice. When you do have to walk on ice or potentially slippery surfaces remember to walk like a penguin. Point your feet outwards, legs apart to widen your base, bring your arms out to the side for balance, and take slow small steps.
Cleaning the Vehicle
Cleaning off your entire vehicle can be time-consuming but it helps to keep you safe on the roads. Clean all snow off your vehicle before beginning to drive. Start at the top of your vehicle and work your way down. Work on the roof, sides, windshield and be sure to clear the lights and mirrors. Be conscious of your body position when pushing or pulling snow off the car. When reaching don’t twist and turn as this puts you in a vulnerable position for injury. Consider an expandable brush to extend your reach and clean off the top of the vehicle.
Winter can bring lots of snow and ice with it. By following some simple strategies, you can reduce the effect winter maintenance has on your body. Keep yourself injury-free this winter with proper warm up, tools, and body position to enjoy all the season has to offer.