Let it Snow- and how to Stay Safe with Snow Shoveling

By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS

Maybe I’m just trying to be optimistic, or am desperately hoping to avoid a repeat of this past summer’s fire, but I have been busy doing some snow dancing for the past month! In hopes of more snow coming down in and around the Durango area, I wanted to share some tips on snow shoveling that I recently came across in an article from the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) website, Move Forward PT1:

-Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls.
-Be sure to take care to bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back.
-Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting.
-A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier.
-Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting. This will help prevent “next-day back fatigue.”
-Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements. -Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.
-Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back. Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling: stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backwards slightly for several seconds.

Another tip that I would add is to make sure that you have shoes on that have good traction so that you are not slipping and sliding around on any packed snow or ice. You might even invest in a pair of traction “cleats” that you can slip over your current shoes to make sure you feel extra steady on the snow and ice while you are pushing snow around.

With fresh snow comes lots of playing and… snow shoveling!

If you do have any issues or concerns related to shoveling, any of our specialized PTs can assist you with any pain you are currently experiencing or to learn prevention techniques if you are not currently injured!

1. American Physical Therapy Association. (2018). 6 Tips to Shovel Snow Safely. [online] Available at: https://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Detail/snow-shoveling [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].