After a nightly snowfall, I awake to the sound of ice getting scraped off of someone’s windshield. Like clockwork, it hits 7:20 a.m. and whoever owns that car is out scraping. Most mornings I would much rather wake up to the sound of my alarm at the time I actually set it to, but I have to respect the dedication to be outside in the freezing cold to clear off their car. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about shoveling snow from a driveway or carrying a big heavy bag of de-icer. My only gripe with snow is that scrape scrape scrape sound directly beneath my window.
Many Americans are not so lucky and do have to get up and out the door early in the morning to clear the sidewalk or walkway. Shoveling snow may not sound that strenuous, but across the country, thousands are injured every year with this winter task. There’s also plenty of other heavy lifting to do in the winter: a tree branch that falls into the yard and must be moved, snow tires, even tired children wearing 5 extra pounds of layers (not including snow boots).
Whether you live in a region of the U.S. where snow removal is a daily occurrence or a warmer area where it hasn’t snowed in years, proper lifting techniques can help you stay safe while completing household tasks, yard work or snow damage control. To help you remember safety first when lifting, especially in winter weather, keep these tips in mind…
Let It Snow Shovel
If your biggest concern for throwing out your back is that blanket of snow outside your front door, have no fear. Try to start while the snow is still fresh, because snow is lighter and easier to maneuver when it has recently fallen. Before stepping outside, be sure to warm the muscles just like you would before exercising. Once you start, work with small batches, using a small shovel or only filling half of a large shovel. Once you fill up your shovel with an appropriate amount of snow, walk it over to your snow pile; do not throw it! Throwing snow can put unnecessary pressure on your back.
Dress For Success
If the weather outside is frightful, layer up before lifting anything outdoors. The goal is to be able to remove layers when your temperature rises from the physical movement, but keep enough clothing on that you won’t freeze standing in your driveway. A windbreaker or light jacket over a sweatshirt and a long sleeve shirt may give you the flexibility to move freely without compromising warmth. Even if the weather is perfectly comfortable outside, be sure to wear non-slip shoes before lifting anything heavy.
So maybe you’re one of us lucky ones who gets to avoid snow shoveling, but what about all the other heavy lifting that could come up? Your best strategy is to make sure your body is moving in the correct way. Use your legs, never your back, and bend at the knees with a wide stance. Try to get a firm grip by lifting with your palms, not your fingertips (which will slip more easily). When moving, avoid twisting your spine, and attempt to turn your whole body by using your feet instead. This will keep your back in a safer, more neutral position to prevent injury.
If something looks like it might be too big, or you start to lift it and it feels too heavy, STOP! Wait until someone can assist you in lifting. It’s better to wait 5 minutes to move that branch than to have 5 days of a sore back. Taking your time is the key to safe lifting no matter the weather.
As for me, I’m glad I don’t have to shovel snow, but I sure hope the sky stays clear and the streets dry on the next day I plan to sleep in–and I won’t be woken up by the urban rooster crow of an ice scraper.