Be Prepared for Safe Snow Shoveling

physical therapySnow shoveling brings increased visits to local emergency rooms and physician offices as a result of lower back injuries. Improper body mechanics can result in muscular strain or possibly a more serious injury, such as a herniated disc or disc degeneration.

The following guidelines will help you prevent injuries and move snow more effectively:

To prevent lower back injuries or any other type of muscle or joint injuries, individuals should adopt an exercise routine to keep joints and muscles strong and mobile. If you want to begin a structured exercise program, it is recommended that you consult your physician. If you sustain an injury, the staff at Good Shepherd’s Spine & Joint Center can diagnose and treat your back or joint pain through a variety of methods, and Good Shepherd’s physical therapy staff can also provide many treatment options for back, muscle and joint injuries.

  • Stretch and Warm Up: The snow isn’t going anywhere. You should stretch first just like runners and other athletes. Remember to stretch your hamstrings, back and shoulders. When beginning to shovel, pace yourself – shoveling is not a race.
  • Have a Strategy: Clear cars off first. Choose a designated area for snow piles.
  • Keep Hydrated: Drink water or sports drinks. 
  • Body Mechanics: Push the snow to one side rather than lifting it. If the snow requires lifting, then remember these factors:
    1. Position your body towards the object that you intend to relocate.
    2. Use your legs as much as possible for power. Push the snow where applicable and use your legs to lift when you cannot push it.
    3. Remember to keep your back straight by recruiting your core muscles as you move from the squat position to an upright position.
    4. Incorporate your shoulders as well when transferring snow.
    5. When holding the shovel, keep it as close to your body as possible and keep one hand close to the shovel blade for better leverage.
    6. Do not twist your back and upper body when throwing snow, but rather walk the snow to the pile to dump it.
  • Rest Periods: Allow for proper muscle recovery and time to regain your strength. Rest periods are a good time to stretch in order to keep muscles flexible. Tight muscles will limit range of motion.
  • Team Build: If possible, recruit friends and/or family members to assist in getting the job done. This will save time and decrease the work load. 
  • Job Completed: This is a good time for a cool-down stretch to prevent an onset of muscle soreness and localized muscle stiffness.
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