Tips for Shoveling Snow...The Safe Way!
By: Cole Howell, PT, DPT
It’s that time of year again, and if you’re like me you are liking spending time outside clearing the snow from your car and driveway. Shoveling snow is a repetitive activity that leaves makes up vulnerable to injuries. Muscle strains of the lower back and shoulders are some of the most common complaints we see as a result of snow shoveling. If you are deconditioned or unaware of how to safely shovel snow, you are at a higher risk of injuring yourself. Here are a few tips on how to shovel safely and how to avoid injuries this winter.
Lifting smaller/lighter amounts of snow at a time is a simple way to reduce your risk of injury.
Use Your Legs, NOT Your Back!
Try lifting with your legs by hinging at your hips and bending your knees instead of using your lower back to lift the shovel. Avoid lifting loads with a rounded back. Using a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting can help encourage proper posture. A shorter shaft will likely cause you to bend forward more to lift the snow. Whereas, using a shovel that’s too long makes the load you are lifting heavier.
Avoid Excessive Twisting
This goes along with #2. Try to use your legs and step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to reduce the strain on your lower back. This will help prevent soreness/injury in your lower back.
Every few minutes, take a break from shoveling. Stand up straight, take a short walk, or go inside for a glass of water (it’s also important to stay hydrated). This will allow your muscles to recover and you will be more likely to maintain proper shoveling form. In addition, you may find it helpful to perform some light extension exercises while you are taking breaks. Place your hands on your hips and bend backward slightly (arching your back). This is the opposite of the constant forward bending that you are likely to be doing while shoveling.
If you do happen to injure yourself while shoveling snow, please seek help from a health care provider (Physical Therapist, Doctor, Etc). Improving your core stability and learning proper lifting mechanics from a Physical Therapist can help you avoid having this become a chronic injury!
I hope you all find this post helpful! Safe Shoveling and enjoy your snow day!