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The first step to avoid injury while shoveling is warming up. Prior to heading outside, it is helpful to perform light exercise. Light exercise for 5-10 minutes is useful for priming the cardiovascular system and warming up the musculature required for shoveling. Some activities you can perform can include squats, hip hinges, and upper/lower body stretches.
The second step is to make sure you have proper body mechanics while shoveling. Remembering a few things about body mechanics can drastically reduce the risk of injury. Below are a few tips:
- Load smaller amounts of snow on shovel
- Keep shovel close to body if carrying snow
- Pushing is easier than lifting
- If you need to carry snow, try to carry to snow pile rather than throwing
- Brace abdominal muscles to help improve stability of spine
- Bend at the hips and knees not from low back
Third, keep pace with the snow and take frequent rest breaks. What we mean by keeping pace, is shovel a few inches at a time, rather than waiting for it to pile up to a foot or more. Shoveling while keeping pace, will make it much easier to manage and will prevent you from having to move heavy snow. Also, make sure to take rest breaks as needed. Shoveling can stress both your musculoskeletal system and cardiovascular system. Taking these breaks will help reduce fatigue and shortness of breath. If you happen to be shoveling and experience shortness of breath or chest pain, make sure you stop immediately and seek medical attention.
The last and final step is to stay hydrated. Typically during the colder months we tend to cut back on the consumption of water, especially when we are outdoors. With the physical demands associated with shoveling, it is important to drink fluids to replace those you lost while shoveling.
We hope you gained some valuable knowledge and preventative measures to avoid injury during the upcoming colder months. If you happen to find yourself feeling discomfort after shoveling make sure to call and schedule an appointment with your local physical therapists!