No one wants to think of it, but the snow is coming. A necessity of living in the Northeast is snow removal and with that can come some common back aches and pain. Shoveling and snow blowing put increased pressures on our spinal column and can lead to sprains and strains if not done properly. A few careful steps can ensure a season of safe snow removal. It is important to check with your doctor if you have any reservations about your ability to work outside in the cold clearing snow. If you’ve been cleared and feel safe doing so, a proper warm up is necessary to prevent injuries of the spine, shoulders, and legs while clearing snow. Starting with 10 minutes of stretches and light exercise indoors is a great way to increase blood flow and warm-up tissues you will be relying on once you get to work outdoors.
Proper equipment is a must. Ensure you have footwear with traction that is appropriate for the type of work you are about to embark on, in addition to well-fitting, warm clothing that will not hinder movement at your shoulders and knees. Look for a shovel with a light plastic head to reduce the amount of weight you will be moving once you get started. A curved, adjustable handle will limit the amount of bending necessary at your back and knees during snow removal. Never use a shovel that you feel is too big or too small for you. If you have access to, and feel comfortable using, a snow blower it may be a better option as it will not require you to bend over.
In terms of correct technique, always push the snow with your legs only lifting when need be, using your legs to do the work. Never bend at your waist, twist, or throw snow over your shoulder as these are high risk maneuvers that will lead to increased risk of shoulder and back pain or injury. Start early while the snow is light, do not attempt to clear deep snow all at once, and take breaks often. These steps can help you make it through the winter injury-free and keep you safe while working in less than ideal conditions.
A physical therapist, like those at Amity Physical Therapy, can answer any questions you may have regarding technique and proper warm-up, as well as assess any issues that may limit your ability to safely participate in snow removal. A little bit of caution and foresight can prevent pain and injury when unexpected weather hits.
Jared graduated from the STCC PTA program with high honors this past May, and has been working in the outpatient orthopedic setting since 2011. Prior to completing the PTA program he earned his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Connecticut. mJared plans to further his education in Functional Movement Systems this fall. In his free-time Jared loves to play disc-golf, read, and travel. Amity Physical Therapy was founded 12 years ago by Michael Dow MSPT and CEO/Director of the practice that now maintains three offices: Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. For more information, call 203-389-4593 or visit amitypt.com.