Shovel smart, shovel safe, and avoid a trip to our Laurel physical therapy clinic this winter

Laurel physical therapy clinic shoveling

December 27, 2018

It’s only a matter of time now. Winter has just officially begun, and with it, sooner or later, will come the snow. What type of winter we’ll have and how much snow the state of Maryland will see is anyone’s guess, but it’s always safe to expect a few good-sized storms before spring arrives. And once the snow eventually falls, it has to go somewhere, which means a fair amount of shoveling if you have a driveway. But this winter, make sure that you shovel smart and safe so you can avoid an injury-related trip to our Laurel physical therapy clinic.

Most people dread the act of shoveling snow, which might lead them to rush through the process in order to get it done as quickly as possible. While this may get you back inside sooner, it could also lead to an injury. Using bad form and hurrying through shoveling duties can put stress on the lower back and lead to painful muscle strains. Low back pain is usually considered the most common injury from shoveling, and in extreme cases, it may even lead to a herniated disc. This usually occurs from twisting, turning, or bending too much, which can go on to harm the back muscles.

Fortunately for you, following some basic tips and taking necessary precautions will strongly reduce your risk for injuries like lower back pain and help you stay out of our Laurel physical therapy clinic. Once the snow does arrive and starts to pile up, keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re shoveling safely and properly. Doing so will help assure you have a pain-free shoveling experience throughout the winter:

9 crucial snow-shoveling safety tips to follow this winter

  • 1) Stretch your back and warm up the body with a brisk walk before shoveling, and be sure to take frequent breaks throughout each session to stretch and hydrate
  • 2) Use an ergonomically-designed shovel with a curved or adjustable handle and small, lightweight blade, which will make shoveling much easier
  • 3) Start shoveling slowly, and gradually increase the workload as your muscles warm up; don’t rush into it or move too quickly while shoveling
  • 4) Practice good posture: use the same techniques used while lifting heavy objects (bend from the knees instead of the waist, lift with legs), keep your back straight and always face the snow you’re lifting with your shoulders and hips square
  • 5) Try to shovel newer, fresher snow while avoiding older snow and ice
  • 6) Avoid twisting your torso or tossing heavy loads of snow; take smaller scoops and push the heavier ones to the side
  • 7) If you do have to lift a large load of snow, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as possible and the other firmly on the handle
  • 8) Wear shoes or boots with good tread to avoid slipping on snow or ice
  • 9) If you experience any extreme shortness of breath and/or chest pain, stop shoveling immediately; be aware of these and other signs of a heart attack, and seek out emergency medical attention if you notice any of them

If you do happen to experience any back pain while shoveling, the worst thing you can do is push through it. This can make the pain worse, and possibly render you helpless for a longer period of time. Instead, stop shoveling, and take some time to rest. If the pain continues, it’s best to see us in order to figure out what the problem is and determine the best course of action. Contact CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services at 301-776-9443 to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Hyattsville, Laurel, Glenn Dale/Bowie, or our newest location in Silver Spring, MD, or you can click here for more information on safe shoveling techniques.