Shovel Right This Winter
Winter weather often brings cold temperatures, snow and ice. Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation’s physical therapist Richard Singer, PT, CMTPT, answers questions and shares tips on how you can stay safe and avoid injury shoveling snow.
ARE PEOPLE OF ALL AGES AT RISK OF INJURY FROM SHOVELING SNOW?
Richard: Yes, everyone from children to senior adults can get injured shoveling snow if they are not using the correct technique. For those of us who are not accustomed to strenuous physical activity, shoveling snow incorrectly can easily lead to injury.
WHAT IS THE COMMON CAUSE OF INJURY?
Richard: Shoveling snow involves bending, rotating and lifting a load with less than ideal body mechanics. Depending on the walkway or driveway area this may also involve repetitive motion, which increases the likelihood of injury.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON INJURIES ASSOCIATED WITH SHOVELING SNOW?
Richard: The most common injuries associated with shoveling are low back strain, sciatica or even a lumbar disc injury.
HOW CAN WE PREVENT INJURY FROM SHOVELING SNOW?
Richard: Consider the following tips:
- Bend with your knees and keep your spine straight. This helps reduce strain on the tissues in your lower back.
- Consider buying an ergonomic snow shovel, which can be purchased from local hardware stores to online retailers to. The most common ergonomic snow shovel design involves a bent shaft. This can be helpful as it enables you to shovel while keeping your spine straight and aligned with your body.
- Load less snow on the shovel. This will help reduce the strain on your shoulders.
- Rest breaks. If you must clear a larger area, taking frequent rest breaks are important.
IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO COUNTERACT POTENTIAL STRAIN ON OUR MUSCLES?
Richard: Try doing some standing back bends (extension) with your hands placed on the back of your hips and gently lean and lower your back. This helps to reduce the effects of any repetitive bending activity.