Many people describe snow as light and fluffy. However, anyone who has shoveled snow knows that lifting those icy shovelfuls can be heavy and tedious to clear. They may have even experienced a sore lower back or shoulders afterward. Each year there are about 11,500 snow shovel-related injuries treated in emergency rooms. The most common injuries treated are strains, sprains, contusions, abrasions.¹ Shoveling and lifting the snow using the proper technique can help you prevent serious back and shoulder injury. That is why Advantage Therapy Centers has gathered these five tips help protect you and your muscles.
Lift Small Loads of Snow
Lifting large loads of snow is one of the most common shoveling mistakes. While it can be tempting to lift more in order to clear the way faster, the extra weight puts strain on your muscles. If you have been lifting with your back, the stress on your lower back could cause an injury. If you are already lift with your legs, this may lead your body to overcompensate by using your back or shoulders to lift. Instead, take smaller amounts of snow at a time. With less stress to your body, smaller dents in the snow can even get the job done quicker.
Bend Your Knees and Lift With Your Legs
When lifting heavy objects, it is best practice to lift using your hips and knees to absorb the added weight. This technique helps spread the weight across several muscles and your core strength, rather than pulling on the muscles and joints of your back and shoulders. To lift with your legs, keep your back straight and bend your knees and hips to reach down. Then straighten your legs, without twisting, to safely lift. If you are using your back to bend forward, you are not lifting with your legs.
Use The Right Shovel to Help Keep Your Back Straight
Using a shovel that is too short or too long can make proper technique difficult. Too long of a shovel and you may twist to pick up and throw the snow. Too short, and bending your knees low enough to lift without leaning forward is impossible. When choosing the correct shovel, with the blade on the ground, the handle should reach your elbow. It may help to practice the motion of bending and lifting with your knees to ensure your back is kept straight.
Step The Direction You Are Throwing to Avoid Twisting
While lifting, twisting can pull the back out of alignment or cause the next day aches that many experience. Instead, step in the direction you want to throw the snow to keep your lower back from twisting. Pushing the snow, rather than lifting and throwing it, also helps to avoid twisting.
Take Breaks to Walk Around and Stretch Your Back
One of the most important steps to physical work is taking breaks to stretch. Frequently take a break to walk around and extend your back. This can counteract bending you may be doing without noticing. This can also help keep your muscles from being tense for too long, which can help you avoid next day muscle pain.
Do you experience frequent lower back, shoulder, or joint pain? Advantage Therapy Centers has 20 years of experience treating various conditions with physical and occupational therapies. We have three convenient South Jersey locations listed below. Ask your doctor if physical therapy is right for your condition and call 856-840-8008 to schedule an appointment.