7 Tips for Preventing Snow Shoveling Trauma

Digging Out the Right Way:

7 Tips for Preventing Snow Shoveling TraumaA friend in Canada recently sent me a message complaining of severe pains in his legs and arms, the result of digging his car out of snowdrifts for the second time in one day!  Although used to heavy snowfalls, he was unprepared for having to repeatedly  “rescue” his only means of transportation.  There was no faulting him for choosing expediency over efficiency, while copious amounts of white stuff fell all around him, rapidly covering everything in sight, including his vehicle.  I am not surprised that he didn’t stop to Google snow shoveling techniques on his smartphone. Nor am I surprised by the painful outcome.  He is certainly not alone in those who end up in ERs and clinics with preventable shoveling related traumas.

A 2009 study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine reveals that musculoskeletal overexertion accounts for about 54% of all snow shoveling injuries. Of these, soft tissue damages – strains, sprains, abrasions and contusions – account for over half the cases, and lower back injuries make up another third. Reminding patients of proper shoveling techniques can not only stop recurrences but reduce the overall number of incidents.  Here are a few tips to pass along to your family, friends and patients in wintery climes:

  • Use an ergonomic shovel – one with a curved and/or adjustable length handle.
  • Warm up those muscles –  10 minutes of stretching or walking pre-shoveling.
  • Shovel early, shovel often – new snow is lighter than heavy accumulations.
  • Push don’t lift – reduce back strain by moving/plowing snow aside.
  • Take frequent breaks – don’t overexert aerobically
  • Drink lots of water – prevent muscle strains due to dehydration
  • Wear the right footwear – snowboots/non-slip soled shoes prevent falls

Injury prevention, not just post-traumatic treatment, is part and parcel of a Physical Therapist’s job description.  Got some other tips you’d like to pass along?  Love to work in snowy climates or ready for a change of scenery?  Contact the Centra Team.

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