How to Avoid Injury While Shoveling Snow this Winter

BrianTwith Brian Tenenhaus, MSPT 

Stay in a neutral position for your lumbar spine. It is imperative that you do not bend your back as you are lifting the shovel, filled with icy, wet snow.

Hinge at your hips.  Your hips are built to flex up and down. They work well as you sit your butt down towards the ground, and this utilizes your leg muscles to the best of their ability.

Only go for a couple minutes at a time, and take frequent breaks. Heart attacks and strokes are unfortunately very common when people go out in the morning to clear off those huge driveways. Those who are at greatest risk are cardiovascularly challenged, taking multiple medications, and don’t work out regularly. If you have a history of heart trouble always check with your medical doctor before picking up the shovel and heading out.

Very important to keep your shoulders set on top of your rib cage. Rotator cuff injuries and bicep tendon tears can happen quite easily from the heavy lifting; additionally, tendonitis and bursitis are both common injuries that occur from the repetition of lifting and tossing the snow several times in a short period of time.  The fix: lots of short bouts, with frequent rest breaks. Also, more importantly, keep your shoulders set properly on your rib cage. Many of us have shoulders that are forward and sit on top of the rib cage.

A healthy shoulder has the shoulder blade “back and down” hugging the back of the rib cage, not resting on top of it.

Eliminate any twisting at the spine. Twisting is bad! As you lift the shovel, pivot your feet while you dump the snow.  Do not keep your feet stationery and twist your spine. That will lead to injury nearly every time.

Legs, legs, legs: Always bend your knees and squat, do not bend at your back.  Our legs are built to be the strongest part of our body. Therefore, using your arms to lift the snow will get you injured, whereas, lifting with your legs, that will just get you tired! Tired is ok. Injured, that’s not ok!

…Lastly, remember to drink plenty of water before, during, and after shoveling. Breathing cold air dehydrates the body.

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