Common Mistakes When Snow Shoveling

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As the first real winter storms moved through our area we are reminded that winter has really arrived.  The kids are rushing to build their first snowmen of the season, start snowball fights with neighbors, and build snow forts (or is it Princess Elsa’s Castle?).  But as you try to get a jump start on added morning chores of clearing driveways, sidewalks, and cars before rushing off to work it is easy to make mistakes and injure yourself. Love or hate it, here are some ways to stay safe this season while clearing snow.

  1. Not Warming Up
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Schedule a Hassle-Free Consultation with Mike or Jackie today at 763-595-1300.

Snow Shoveling is a physical activity.  Just like going to the gym or about to play a pick-up game of basketball we need to have a proper warm-up.  Now I am not talking about a 15min warm-up that leaves you sweating nor do I want you static stretching cold. You do not hold static positions in shoveling so I do not want to warm-up that way.

Taking 2-3 minutes to do an abbreviated warm-up could be the difference of walking away from shoveling with a light to moderate sweat versus a pulled muscle or worse injury.

If you need further assistance or if you would like to learn more about proper lifting techniques to avoid injury schedule a free consultation at 763-595-1300.

 

  1. Scooping Too Much

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Just like taking too big of a bite of ice cream can give you a brain freeze, taking too big of a scoop of snow can give you a back injury. This is easily remedied using the right shovel. Some shovels are meant to be used as a plow and have the capacity to hold a lot of snow while others have smaller heads and are designed for you to pick up more manageable scoops of snow. Using the right tool is key so you will not be sidelined from heavy snowfall.  This is more evident with wet heavy snow than with light fluffy snow.

  1. Improper Lifting Technique

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When we are lifting any object from the ground proper form should be used to maintain good back and shoulder positioning to prevent an injury. This is even more important when using a shovel because the weight of the snow is outside of the base of your feet which will put more work on your back. It is like trying to pick up a bowling ball with your arms straight out in front of you versus having the ball close to your body.  A few tips for proper lifting:

  • Use the old proverb, “Lift with Your Legs”
  • Hinge at the hips to keep a neutral spine or your back flat
  • Keep the end of the shovel (where the snow is) as close to your body as possible
  1. Throwing Snow over Shoulder

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This may seem like an efficient use of energy and to make sure that the snow is cleared but this could be detrimental to your back and your shoulders.  When you are slightly bent forward your back is already in a poor position and at risk for injury. If you were to throw the snow over your shoulder you are now adding a twisting motion to your spine which over time could lead to a disc injury or aggravate a pre-existing injury.

  1. Hands Too Close Together

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When you try to lift a shovel with your hands together you lose all the leverage to give you the advantage to lift a shovel full of snow. When your hands are farther apart you can use your hand closest to the head of the shovel as the fulcrum to lift the snow up. The closer your hand is to the head of the shovel the easier it will be to lift the full shovel. You should experiment for yourself what is the best hand position for you because the closer to the head of the shovel your hand is the harder it is going to be to maintain good form for your back due to general flexibility. If you have trouble touching your toes you will probably have trouble lifting the shovel from its lowest point.

Conclusion

Keep these points in mind when you hear of the next winter storm coming in to give yourself time to warm-up. Take your time and have a plan on how you would like to clear your driveway or walkway so it is most efficient to push snow aside versus having to lift and throw.

If you get an injury from shoveling this winter, don’t hesitate to contact us at 763-595-1300 for a FREE EXAM and CONSULTATION.

At Crossover Physical Therapy in St. Michael, we target underlying dysfunction first with targeting soft tissue, joint mobilizations/manipulations, dry sports rehabilitation St. Michael, sports injury therapy St. Michael, sports injury therapist near me St. Michael, physical therapy exercises for low back pain during pregnancy St. Michael, postpartum physical therapy St. Michael needling, electrical stimulation, and neuro-muscular re-education (essentially teaching good movement patterns), and reinforcing with corrective and functional exercises to solidify results.  Initial PT sessions focus on re-establishing movement whether it is at the joint level or overall motor control so repetitive stresses are eliminated and pain and strength can be addressed quickly.  Later appointments are focused on getting the patient back to their previous levels of work/exercises or possibly into a fitness program to help accelerate strength goals.