Watch Your Back When Shoveling

Well, it looks like winter finally started to show up, even if it's a little late to the party.

When we treat patients for Physical Therapy in Elizabeth and Jersey City, we do a lot of education regarding posture, especially when it pertains to daily activities.  Treatment obviously helps when injury occurs, but Physical Therapists are the top specialists that can also educate you on how to prevent injury from ever happening.  Since my wife, Dr. Asha Koshy, is a McKenzie certified back specialist, every back program that we have in our clinics is specially tailored to everyday living.  And with our area getting hammered by winder storm Stella, now is as good a time as any to give you our best tips for saving your back when shoveling snow.  I was out there last night, as well as this morning, to try to clean out my driveway and dig out my cars, so I know how heavy the snow is at the moment.  

So here we go:

1) When you scoop up a shovel full of snow, use more of your legs by bending both your knees and squatting, keeping your back as straight as possible, instead of keeping your legs straight and bending your back over.  And remember, try to keep the amounts of snow that you lift in your shovel to moderate amounts.  We see so many patients that have hurt their back because they've tried to lift amounts of snow that were just too heavy.  If it feels to heavy, cut it in half with your shovel.  Better to lift two small scoops and save your back as opposed to one extra large one that might cause injury.

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2) Push the snow as much as possible, and lessen the amount of lifting.  If you're doing your driveway, push in rows and try to lift only when you reach the end of a row.  This will help you to use more leg strength and put less strain on your back.  If you don't have to lift the snow, don't!  Your back and legs will thank you for it.

3) Consider purchasing an ergonomic shovel.  This is something that many people disregard, looking to just purchase the cheapest shovel they can find.  There are many available options at your local hardware store, with most to all better at pushing snow than traditional models.  

4) Seriously consider warm up and cool down stretches.  Remember, snow shoveling is quite an underrated athletic activity.  So you should treat it as such and give yourself the best possibility to avoid injury. 

5) Wear proper clothing that will keep you warm and toasty.  Warm muscles will stay loose and significantly reduce the possibility for strains or sprains. 

With these tips, I'm confident that you can keep back pain at bay while effectively and efficiently cleaning out the snow.

Take care and stay safe!

Dr. James Pumarada is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 17+ years of experience and co-owner of Complete Physical Rehabilitation, a Physical Therapy practice based in Elizabeth and Jersey City, NJ.