Shoveling 101

snow

We live in Maine, there’s bound to be snow…and at times, a lot of snow.
With all the snow, there is a lot of shoveling that many Mainers will face.

Shoveling snow may be the most physically challenging exercise you face this winter (and many times into late fall and early spring). Snow shoveling is a repetitive exercise that can involve heavy weighted lifting and pushing. It can lead to muscle strain or injury, especially to the low back or shoulders if done incorrectly.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers helpful tips to keep in mind when shoveling snow:

Prior to shoveling:

  • Stretch muscles to warm and loosen them to prevent strains and tears.
    • Warm up legs with slight knee bends that will prepare the lower half of your body for strenuous activity.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine.
    • Each when paired with physical activity, may contribute to or impact long-lasting injury or health complications.
  • Avoid using a shovel that is too long, as this could make the snow pile heavier to lift, causing strain to your back.

During shoveling:

  • Take breaks when needed by walking around and standing up straight. If you have not regularly worked out recently, take several breaks.
  • Make sure to shovel smaller piles of snow at a time instead of very heavy piles
  • Bend at the hips and knees while keeping your abdominals tight when shoveling snow.
    • Lifting a heavy load with a rounded back increases stress on the spine.
  • Avoid twisting with a full shovel of snow.
    • After lifting, take 1-2 small steps to turn your body toward the snow pile.

It is important to keep hydrated with non-caffeinated beverages. Water is the best choice. To help avoid dehydration, keep a bottle of water readily available when shoveling.

After shoveling, you may experience some soreness. Stretching pre/post-shoveling will help limit the amount of soreness you will have. If your soreness lasts more than 48 hours, you may have an injury and should consult your physical therapist or other medical professional.

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