Preventing Injury While Shoveling Snow

Anthony Crespo
Anthony Crespo Executive Assistant at AHS

As we get deeper into the winter season we are beginning to cross paths with snow. Most either love it or hate it. Many can agree that although snow looks beautiful, Cleaning up after can be a total drag especially shoveling the driveway. One study found that there are an average of 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies treated in emergency departments resulting from snow shoveling in the United States each year(1). Some of the most common orthopedic injuries that can occur include back injuries, muscle strains, hernias, rotator cuff tears, and broken bones from falling. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when the time comes and shoveling is necessary. 

1. Warm up

Shoveling snow is strenuous and is no different than performing an exercise in the gym. Multiple muscles are used and become fatigued. Your body does not know the difference between lifting a dumbbell or lifting a pile of snow. Before you get ready to shovel not only are your muscles still cold but the environment around will also add to this which is why doing a few stretches and body weight exercises that increase the heart rate are paramount. For example body weight squats, body twists or even going up and down your stairs a few times can help increase the heart rate and warm up your working muscles. 

2. Push the snow

When shoveling snow it is preferable to push the snow rather than lift it up with all your might. Lifting the snow at an awkward angle can put an enormous amount of strain on the lower back. The weight will feel greater the further you are from the end of the shovel (portion that holds the snow). It is also important to remember not to overfill your shovel, as much as we want to rush and get it over with it would behoove you to take your time and prevent injury than it would to have a clear driveway.

3. Bend your hips, knees and lift with your legs

If you have no other choice but to lift and throw snow to the side it is highly recommended that you bend at the hips and lift with your legs. It is also advised to prevent any unnecessary or over twisting of the torso, the lower back does not like to twist. This will ultimately prevent further chances of developing back issues. 

4. Take breaks

It is important to take breaks when you have reached your capacity at that moment. Because you spend most of the time leaning forward it is advised to Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.

5. Wear appropriate clothing

Lastly a tip that goes overlooked is to wear the appropriate clothing! It is important to not only keep your muscles warm but to also wear clothing that can allow you to still have good range of motion. Adding an excessive amount of layers can prevent you from bending at the knees and hips which can lead to injury. 

 

As the frequency of snow fall increases so does the need to use your shovel, if you can salt the sidewalks and any area that experiences heavy traffic then do so. If no other options are available and you must pick up your shovel then be assured that following the tips provided in this blog will make sure you will succeed in this noble endeavor safely. 

References

1. How to shovel snow safely. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.professionalptandtraining.com/how-to-shovel-snow-safely/

2. Team, C. (2021, February 05). Techniques to reduce Pain, before, during and long AFTER shoveling snow. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.coraphysicaltherapy.com/techniques-to-reduce-pain-before-during-and-long-after-shoveling-snow/

 

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