Reduce Your Risk Of Pain & Injury from Shoveling Snow!

Snow shoveling is everyone’s least favorite chore when wintertime hits. You might not expect to need physical therapy after shoveling your walk, but we see it more often than you might think. This task isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s labor-intensive work that requires a lot of repetitive motions. For this reason, snow shoveling can cause back injuries and muscle strain. Fortunately, there are simple ways you can shovel your walk safely while avoiding injury. So…here are some snow shoveling safety tips from your friends at Capital Area PT:

1. Start by lifting less.

When snow shovel shopping, it might be tempting to grab the largest model, since it will help you finish the job in the shortest amount of time. Large shovels are more efficient, right? In this case, the answer is the opposite – using a large shovel can encourage you to lift too much snow at one time. Overdoing it can cause an injury that could put you out of commission for days or weeks. Snow can be heavy, especially in warmer temperatures, so the heavier the snow, the smaller the shovel load. Choose a smaller shovel and/or pick up smaller amounts.

2. Choose the right snow shovel.

The second mistake people make is choosing the wrong snow shovel for their height. When the shaft of the shovel is too short, you’ll be forced to bend over at an awkward angle. This also leads to improper lifting technique, which can cause back injuries. Choose a snow shovel that allows you to keep your back straight while scooping or pushing snow.

3. Think consciously about your movement.

It might not seem natural to think about lifting technique while shoveling snow, but the fact remains that snow-shoveling is hard work. You’re lifting moderate amounts of weight in a repetitive motion, so using proper technique is necessary to avoid injury. One of the most common sources of back injury is excessive twisting of the spine. Remember this basic piece of lifting advice: lift with your legs, not with your back. By keeping your back as straight as possible, you reduce the strain. Also consider pushing or throwing the snow to the side, instead of behind you. At the same time, be mindful not to keep your shoulders stiff, as this can also lead to strain.

4. Do stretching exercises after shoveling snow.

Even when you’re using the proper technique, it’s difficult to get around the fact that shoveling requires excessive forward bending. The best way to combat this movement is with backward bending exercises. After shoveling, stand straight and tall, put your hands on the back of your hips, and bend backwards. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat.

Shoveling snow may be a necessary part of your winter routine, but don’t let it ruin your winter sporting fun! These snow shoveling safety tips help provide a more measured approach to this task to help you avoid a visit to a physical therapist. If you do experience pain or injury from shoveling, contact Capital Area Physical Therapy for an assessment and a recommended treatment to get you back on track and ready for the next snowfall!