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Tips for Staying Safe While Shoveling Snow

Some people love snow, and some people hate it. Whether you like it or not, if you live in Minnesota, you will have to deal with it. Most of the time that means bundling up, grabbing the shovel, and heading outside. As you shovel, you’re probably careful to avoid any ice or slippery spots so you don’t fall and hurt yourself – but that’s not the only thing that can hurt you.

Shoveling snow is a very repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain in different parts of your body, including your lower back and shoulders. Injuries due to shoveling snow are more likely to happen to people who maybe don’t know that they are out of condition.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid an injury while you’re out shoveling:

  • 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.
  • If you or anyone you know is experiencing back pain, consult a licensed physical therapist.

Good luck out there, and stay warm!

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