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Let It Snow: Prevent Injury With These Snow Shoveling Tips
La Plata Physical Therapy, Inc.
. http://www.laplatapt.com/

Let It Snow: Prevent Injury With These Snow Shoveling Tips

By Shannon Collins, Student Physical Therapist

 

It is important to be aware of some simple techniques to help prevent injury when it comes to shoveling snow.

First thing first: choose a shovel that works for you. It is best to find an ergonomic shovel that has an adjustable handle that will mitigate the need for you to bend over and help alleviate some of the stress on your back to make shoveling easier for you.

Just like any other physical activity, it is important to do a proper warm-up prior to shoveling. Muscles that are cold and tight are more susceptible to injury compared to muscles that are warm and flexible. To get your muscles warm, consider going for a brisk walk, or even marching in place or doing jumping jacks to increase your heart rate and increase blood flow to your muscles. This can be accompanied by some light stretching to make sure your muscles are ready to shovel.

Next: body mechanics. It is crucial for you to have proper body mechanics when shoveling snow to prevent injury. Grip is particularly important as this allows you to have the proper leverage, which will make you a more efficient shoveler. An ideal grip includes one hand being slightly closer to the blade and one hand on the handle of the shovel.

It is also very important to maintain proper spinal alignment to avoid putting excess strain on the postural muscles that support your spine that are more susceptible to injury. This can be accomplished by keeping your back straight and your head in line with your spine. It is very important that while bending you bend at your knees, stick your hips back, and keep your back straight so that your legs can do the heavy lifting instead of your back.

When shoveling, you should keep your feet apart and bend and straighten at your knees, not your back, when picking up the snow. It is best to walk to where you need the snow to move instead of trying to throw it. Throwing the snow often leads to unwanted twisting of the back that puts you at an increased risk of injury. Consider pushing the snow whenever possible instead of picking it up with the shovel because pushing is easier and safer. When pushing the shovel with snow, place one leg in front of the other, with your knees bent slightly, and your back should be straight.

Keep in mind that shoveling snow is no easy task and it can be vigorous exercise. Take breaks when you need them to avoid overexertion, shovel small amounts of snow in one load to make sure the shovel does not get too heavy, and take your time to ensure that you have good form to avoid potential injury.

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