3 Tips to Prevent Snow Shoveling Injury

We love treating back pain, but we love PREVENTING patients’ back pain even more. Unfortunately, every year at River East Physiotherapy we see many injuries from snow shoveling.  They're usually back and shoulder injuries, caused because shovelers used poor form or don’t have the fitness level to match the amount of snow they face.  

And right now we are facing so much snow! Here are three tips to help you prevent injuries from shoveling this winter.

1) Use Great Form

Using great form when shoveling snow means:

  1. Maintain a neutral spine – keep the natural curves in your spine, rather than hunching over when you reach forward.
  2. Contract your abdominals and back muscles to keep your neutral spine from hunching.
  3. Squat with your legs to lift the snow i.e. bend with your hips and knees rather than your back.
  4. Keep the snow load as close to your body as you can.
  5. When throwing the sideways onto a snowband, pivot with your feet, don't twist from your spine. 

Confused?  Our physiotherapists can check your form and help you figure out what to focus on.

2) Pace yourself

Before shoveling, make time for a short warm up, such as a brisk walk (stomping through deep snow works great).  Take frequent breaks (e.g. every 5 minutes, depending on your fitness level) and do movements that are the opposite of shoveling movements e.g. 30 seconds of shoulder rolls backwards, sticking out your chest and holding it for 20 seconds, or reaching your arms up to the sky.  Our physiotherapists can teach you techniques customized to you.

3) Train now!

With any new physical activity, your body needs time to adapt.  Going straight from fall couch potato to winter snow shoveler is a recipe for disaster.

A good guideline is to increase your activity by 10% a week.  So consider sharing your shoveling duties with someone else at the start of the season, depending on your fitness level.  And if you haven't already, start a training program NOW to ease you in to your winter activity. 

Need help?  Our physiotherapists can work with you to develop a training program tailored to your winter activity goals, your body, and your lifestyle.