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Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

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Ten Snow Shoveling Tips to Keep Your Spine Healthy

By: Ben Otis, MSPT, OMT, CSCS, Outpatient Physical Therapy Supervisor for Rehabilitation Services

Snow is flying. Winter is here. It's time for a refresher on how avoid the back strains that so often come with the snow. 

  1. Wear Supportive Footwear: Having good boots on, tied tight, makes it easier to move your feet and shift weight. 
  2. Lift With Your Legs: Bend your knees and avoid bending forward at the back when you lift the shovel. 
  3. Pace Yourself: Be aware of your breathing rate. If you can't carry on a normal conversation while shoveling due to shortness of breath, you are working too fast and too hard. 
  4. Re-Grip As Needed: Slide your hand down the handle closer to the load of snow to gain a mechanical advantage and lift with more ease. 
  5. Low Back Posture: Maintain a neutral spine or a slight lordosis (curve of the back) when pushing snow. 
  6. Perform a Snow Dance: The more you move your feet, the better body mechanics you will maintain, increasing the work load on your leg muscles and lessening the strain on your back. 
  7. No Twisting: Stand and pivot your feet instead of twisting through the trunk to throw the snow. 
  8. Limit the Load: If the snow is wet and heavy, lift only partially full shovels. 
  9. Power Stance: Use a staggered stance at your feet when pushing snow and avoid locking your knees. 
  10. Finishing Exercise: When you are done shoveling, perform a pain-free standing back extension to restore the slight arch in your low back.

 Stay safe - and warm - out there, and remember to check on your elderly friends and neighbors during winter weather.