The cold weather makes us keenly aware that winter has arrived here in Central PA. A 2009 medical study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that, on average, 11,500 people across the country suffer snow shoveling-related injuries and medical emergencies every year.
At CPRS Physical Therapy, education is so important. Here are some tips, so that you can stay healthy and injury-free this winter season.
Pick the right snow shovel
- A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize painful bending, requiring you to bend your knees only slightly and arch your back slightly, while keeping the shovel blade on the ground.
- A small, lightweight plastic blade helps reduce the amount of weight that you are moving.
Warm up and layer up thoroughly
- Make sure you wear proper attire and layer your clothing for extra warmth.
- Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Do your back a favor by warming up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or engaging in any strenuous activity.
- Take a brisk walk around the block or march in place to get that blood moving
Following a brief cardio warm-up, complete a few gentle stretches to help your arms, back and legs be more limber:
- Cross your arms over your chest and rotate your upper body to the right and hold for 10-30 seconds.
- Keep your hips and lower body facing forward.
- If you feel pain in your lower back, stop and back off slightly.
- Repeat on the left side as well.
- Make large circles with your arms and continue this dynamic movement for 5 seconds.
- Stand tall with your left foot a few inches in front of your right foot. Bend your left foot so that your toes are facing the sky
- Bend your right knee slightly.
- Lean forward from your hips and rest both palms on top of your right thigh for balance and support.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and do not round your lower back. You should feel a mild stretch gradually spread through the back of your leg.
- Repeat the stretch with your right leg forward.
Proper Shoveling Technique
- When you shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Do not try to throw it. Walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
- When shoveling, bend your knees to lift. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back
- Take frequent breaks while shoveling
- Repeat stretched if you start to feel pain or discomfort in your back or arms.
Other Helpful Tips
- Assess the area in which you are about to shovel. Be careful of black ice or other hazards that may cause injury or harm.
- If you do experience pain or an injury that continues throughout the day or weekend, you are welcome to utilize CPRS' FREE screenings. You can be assessed by a licensed physical therapist and given a recommendation based on the finding such as: follow up with your family physician, try a home exercise program, or start physical therapy. Appointments are made within 24-48 hours of phone call.
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