Hurting yourself while shoveling is snow joke! The pain can linger long beyond the winter and make it difficult to do everyday tasks.
Before you tackle the driveway, keep these 5 tips in mind to prevent injury!
How to Prevent Injury While Shoveling Snow
1. Warm up first
We know, it’s “just shoveling snow” and you want to just get outside and get it done – BUT – taking a few extra minutes to do some quick warm up movements before makes a huge difference. Since you’ll be doing a lot of bending over and walking around, focus on stretching your arms and legs. Even walking around a bit inside before going outside will help. Trust us, your body will thank you for this.
2. Bend from hips and knees, not back
You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating: bend with your legs, not your back! You’ll get a lot more support and stability that way, and be much less likely to strain yourself. This applies even if you’re using a snowblower and need to hunch over – bend from the hips and knees, not the back!
3. Tighten your core muscles as you lift
Before you do any bending, you’ll want to brace your body by activating your core muscles. Your core muscles help stabilize your joints, and activating them will help prevent extra stress on your joints as you shovel snow. Tighten those core and abdominal muscles while you lift with your legs.
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4. Shovel in intervals throughout the day
It’s tempting to wait until the snow’s done falling and get your shoveling done in one fell swoop – but it’s actually a lot more counter-productive. Throughout the day as snow falls, the snow closer to the ground will harden and make it a lot more difficult to move. Freshly-fallen snow is the fluffiest and easiest to move. If you’re able to – like, say if you’re working from home all day – go outside throughout the day to shovel intervals instead of waiting for the snowfall to end. It’s going to put much less strain on your body.
5. Slow and steady
Shoveling isn’t fun for most people (and if it is for you, please, please feel free to come to my house this winter) and so you often want to load up as much snow as you can with each shovelful and speed up the process. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst things you can do to your body and one of the most common causes for shoveling-related injuries. It’s much, much better to shovel smaller amounts over a longer period of time. And listen to your body – if it’s telling you it’s time to stop even if you’re not done yet, it pays to listen. Go inside and take a break, send your kids out there, or leave it for another day. It’s not worth straining yourself beyond your breaking point.
Slow and steady is also important when navigating icy steps or an icy driveway. Using good footwear or Yak-Traks is a great way to reduce the incidence of a fall on ice which could lead to even more suffering injuries. If you are concerned with the terrain you’re shoveling, utilize smaller steps. Always anticipate icy steps when going outside, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Shoveling snow isn’t something we can avoid here in Minnesota, but there are a few ways to help avoid pain and injury while doing so. And if you’ve experienced pain in the past – or even if you do everything right but still injure yourself, it happens – aftercare is critical.
Partnering with a one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy is going to help you avoid future pain and resolve current pain. Give us a call! We offer complimentary phone and in-person consultations. We aim to meet our patients wherever they are in their journey and answer all questions we can to ensure a smooth experience at PRO Therapy. We want to help you make the best decision for you!
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