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27 Tue

How to shovel snow safely

How to shovel snow safely

Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI

It’s a blizzard!  Our area is under a couple feet of snow and now we have to dig out.  If you use a snow shovel, watch out, be safe, and keep your back intact.  Here’s how to save your back when you’re shoveling snow…

The core is where it’s at.  The muscles in the front of your trunk can really help take the load off your back.  If you have to pick up something heavy, engage your core abdominal muscles by creating tension in your belly.  The abdominal muscles wrap around and connect to the lumbar fascia and can create a lot of tension, mimicking a back brace or belt that some people wear (which is another subject altogether).  Check out my previous post on how to brace your core here.

Your hips and legs are the strongest parts of your body.  For a marathon snow shoveling session, no matter how strong your upper body is or how big your arms are, they will fatigue before your hips and legs throw in the towel.  The hips are where the glutes are and where the “king and queen” of the lower body reside.  So don’t use your back or arms to lift, bend down and use your legs.  Squatting and deadlifting are basic movements used in weightlifting, but they are key functional exercises that can prep your lower body for activities like shoveling snow safely.

Your lower back does not like to rotate.  Keep your snow-filled shovel in front of your body.  Don’t lift and twist to throw the snow to the side.  Once you lift your shovel, step around using your legs and then throw the snow forward.  You can make this a step-pivot to throw the snow out to the side.  Rotating under load is the worst thing to do to your back.  You run the risk of straining it and not being able to do anything else for a couple days or weeks.  Rotation generally occurs around the hips and pelvis and the mid-back, not the lower back.

Remember, brace your spine, use your legs, and don’t twist your lower back.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.




Image courtesy of debspoons /

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