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When you were a kid, a fluffy layer of snow meant no school, sledding, and making snowmen. But now that you’re older, it means the necessary chore of shoveling snow to clear your driveway and sidewalk to prevent someone from slipping and falling. 

While shoveling is a necessary chore, it’s also an exercise that many tend to underestimate and, therefore, tend to overdo. How many exactly? According to one study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, 11,500 adults in the U.S. are seen in the emergency room every year for shoveling-related injuries. About 55% of those injuries are soft tissue injuries including sprains, strains and bruises. 

The good news is there are precautions you can take to avoid being another statistic this winter. In this article, we will give you our six best tips on how to get the walkway clear of snow without getting yourself hurt in the process. 

1. Warm Up First

Don’t underestimate the workout you’re going to get shoveling snow! Before you begin, warm up your muscles like you would for any other type of sport or exercise with some stretching and 10 minutes of light aerobic activity. This will prepare your muscles for tackling the snow on the ground no matter how light or heavy it is.

2. Use an Ergonomically Designed Shovel

It’s time to ditch that old shovel you’ve had in the garage for 20 years and pick up an ergonomically designed shovel at your nearest home improvement store. These shovels feature changes such as two handles, a bent handle or an adjustable handle, all designed to encourage proper shoveling posture and take stress off the shoulders and back while shoveling. 

3. Use the Right Tool for You

Speaking of shovels, you’re going to have a lot of different choices when you go to pick one up at the store. However, make sure you’re choosing one that is right for you, your body and your endurance. For example, a smaller blade is going to limit how much weight you pick up at a time while preventing you from overexerting. 

4. Use the Proper Technique

When bending over to shovel, be sure to bend with your hips and knees, not your back. Try to imitate a skier’s stance with knees bent and core engaged. Your quads should be sore from the workout, not your back. Try to push the snow in a straight line to get it out of the way to avoid picking it up or worse, picking up and rotating your back as you throw it aside. 

5. Pace Yourself

Snow shoveling is an aerobic activity, so it’s important to take breaks when you need them and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Every 15 minutes or so, take a break to straighten your back and walk around a little to make sure your muscles aren’t aching. If you’re expecting a lot of snow, it’s a good idea to shovel in shifts by starting early and keeping on top of things instead of handling all of the snow at once. 

6. Listen to Your Body

No one knows your body better than you do. While you’re shoveling, make sure you are listening to your body and keeping an eye out for signs that you need to take a break or stop altogether. These signs can include pain in your muscles or joints or stiffness in your back. These signs should be seen as a signal to stop, go inside, and enjoy the snow from your favorite chair instead. 

If you find yourself a little worse for wear after the first snowfall this year, come see one of our physical therapy professionals at South Orange Rehabilitation and Wellness. One-on-one treatment with one of our specialists can have you standing straighter and feeling better in no time. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you this winter!