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Proper Snow Shoveling

Preventing Back Pain in the Winter 

By Craig J. Mawdsley, PT, DPT, COMT, FAAOMPT

The winter season is upon us, and for those of us leaving in the Midwest that means cold temperatures and snow.   With snow comes snow removal, and the possibility of sustaining an injury.  

  • On average 11,500 people are treated at the emergency room each year for snow shoeveling related injuries. 
  • 74% of snow removal injuries are related to muscle, ligament or joint injury of the shoulders, arms, back hips or knees.
  • LBP is the most common representing 54% of all snow removal injuries
  • Slips and falls on ice cause 20% of the injuries and can lead to fractures, dislocations and other soft tissue injuries.

Proper body mechanics and ergonomics is essential to preventing injuries to the lower back.  Pushing the snow is preferred when possible, however if you are going to lift snow, using these tips will reduce your chances of injury.

(Image 1: proper set up, Image 2: proper dumping)

Image 3: improper set up, Image 4: improper dumping)

  • Face towards the snow you intend to lift, square shoulder, and hips.
  • Grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as is comfortable and other hand on the handle
  • Bend your hips and knees, lift with your legs, keep your back straight and core tight
  • Keep the amount of snow light, do not lift too heavy of loads
  • Keep the shovel close to your body, at your center of gravity, even when dumping the snow
  • Avoid twisting or throwing snow
  • Pivot your whole body and face the direction you want to dump the snow

If you are experiencing pain related to snow shoveling, don’t hesitate to come in to Clarity Physical Therapy today and let one of their skilled practitioners evaluate your injury today! 

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