Be sure you’re shoveling snow safely and avoid an injury this winter

With the extreme weather conditions hitting most of the nation and the likelihood of more snow falling in the North Carolina area before winter is over, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates would like to remind you of the importance of shoveling snow properly to avoid injuries, especially low back pain.

Many dread the act of shoveling snow and may rush through the process to get it done as quickly as possible, but using incorrect body mechanics when shoveling can put undue stress on the lower back and lead to painful muscle strains.  Low back pain is usually considered the most common injury experienced due to shoveling, and in extreme cases, may even lead to a herniated disc.  Fortunately, most of these cases can be prevented if appropriate precautions are taken.

This winter, take steps to ensure you’re shoveling safely and properly, so you can actually enjoy the snow instead of worrying about nagging back pain or other problems.  Follow these pointers for a pain-free shoveling experience:

  • Use an ergonomically-designed shovel with a curved or adjustable handle and small, lightweight blade, which will make shoveling much easier
  • Stretch your back and warm up the body with a brisk walk before shoveling, and be sure to take frequent breaks to stretch and hydrate
  • Start shoveling slowly, and gradually increase the workload as your muscles warm up; don’t rush into it or move too quickly while shoveling
  • Practice good posture: use the same techniques used while lifting heavy objects (bend from the knees instead of the waist, lift with legs), keep your back straight and always face towards the object you intend to lift (keep shoulders and hips square)
  • Avoid twisting the torso or tossing heavy loads of snow; take smaller scoops and push the heavier ones to the side
  • Try to shovel newer, fresher snow while avoiding older snow and ice
  • If you do have to lift a large load of snow, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as possible and the other firmly on the handle
  • Wear shoes or boots with good tread to avoid slipping

If you do experience any pain while shoveling, in the back or elsewhere in the body, stop immediately and don’t push through it, which can make the pain worse.  If the pain persists, please visit us at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, where we’ll be happy to evaluate your problem and create a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Stay safe and remember to take your time in the snow this winter.