Don’t become a snow shoveling statistic

Did you know that approximately 11,500 people each year are injured shoveling snow?  I didn’t either until I looked it up, but it is unfortunately true.  The most common injuries are soft tissue (think muscle strains), and most of those injuries are to the low back.  So unless you have the luxury of using a flamethrower to clear the driveway, it would be good practice to use the following tips when putting away that pesky precipitate this winter.

1. Push the snow when you can, instead of lifting it.

This just makes good sense as you can achieve the same intended result by pushing the snow out of the way instead of having to lift it.  Work smart!

2. Learn to hip hinge.

When you do need to lift snow, utilizing a proper hip hinge pattern is the best way.  The hip hinge is a movement that is pivotal to functioning well and keeping our low back healthy and pain free.  While the majority of us probably know of the hip hinge as a strict deadlift, we actually can and should use the a derivative of the hinging pattern when we do things like picking up our kids, moving furniture, and of course, shoveling snow.

3. Keep hands spread apart.

This gives you better leverage and control of the shovel.

4. Keep the load (snow) close to the body.

The closer whatever you are moving is to your center of mass, the less effort you need to exert in order to move it.  Keeping the load close to you when lifting will decrease the stress your body goes through.

5. Switch sides

Most of us have a preferred side that we use when shoveling which can take a toll on one side of the body.  To prevent fatigue or strain, try to switch sides every so often.

6. Know your limits.

Shoveling snow can be an intense form of exercise.  You are much more likely to get injured while shoveling if you haven’t been exercising the past few months.  So if you are just coming out of hibernation, be sure to pace yourself when shoveling.

Below is a video going over some of the suggestions above.

Let’s all put these into practice and avoid becoming a statistic this winter!

Dr. John Mark Skinner is a physical therapist at Colorado In Motion


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