jersey city physical therapy clinic shoveling

Shovel smart, shovel safe, and avoid a trip to our Jersey City physical therapy clinic this winter

by ggargiulo, December 8, 2017

It’s only a matter of time now. Winter is just around the corner, and with it, sooner or later, will come the snow. What type of winter we’ll have and how much snow New Jersey will get is anyone’s guess at this point, but it’s a safe bet to count on at least a few dumps on the state before spring arrives. And once the snow does eventually fall, it has to go somewhere, and for those of you with a driveway, that usually means lots of shoveling. But this winter, make sure you are shoveling smart and safe so you can avoid a trip to our Jersey City physical therapy clinic with an injury.

Most people dread the act of shoveling snow, which might lead them to rush through the process in order to get it done as quickly as possible. While this may get you back inside sooner, it could also lead to an injury. Using bad form and hurrying through shoveling duties can put stress on the lower back and lead to painful muscle strains. Low back pain is usually considered the most common injury experienced from shoveling, and in extreme cases, it may even lead to a herniated disc. This usually occurs from twisting, turning or bending too much, which can go on to harm the back muscles.

Fortunately for you, following some basic pointers and taking certain precautions will strongly reduce your risk for an injury like low back pain and help you stay out of our Jersey City physical therapy clinic. Once the snow does arrive and starts to pile up, keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re shoveling safely and properly. Doing so will help assure you have a pain-free shoveling experience throughout the winter:

9 crucial snow-shoveling safety tips to follow this winter

  • 1) Stretch your back and warm up the body with a brisk walk before shoveling, and be sure to take frequent breaks throughout each session to stretch and hydrate
  • 2) Use an ergonomically-designed shovel with a curved or adjustable handle and small, lightweight blade, which will make shoveling much easier
  • 3) Start shoveling slowly, and gradually increase the workload as your muscles warm up; don’t rush into it or move too quickly while shoveling
  • 4) Practice good posture: use the same techniques used while lifting heavy objects (bend from the knees instead of the waist, lift with legs), keep your back straight and always face the snow you’re lifting with your shoulders and hips square
  • 5) Try to shovel newer, fresher snow while avoiding older snow and ice
  • 6) Avoid twisting your torso or tossing heavy loads of snow; take smaller scoops and push the heavier ones to the side
  • 7) If you do have to lift a large load of snow, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as possible and the other firmly on the handle
  • 8) Wear shoes or boots with good tread to avoid slipping on snow or ice
  • 9) If you experience any extreme shortness of breath and/or chest pain, stop shoveling immediately; be aware of these and other signs of a heart attack, and seek out emergency medical attention if you notice any of them

If you do happen to experience any back pain while shoveling, the worst thing you can do is push through it. This can make the pain and problem worse, and probably render you helpless for a longer period of time. Instead, stop shoveling, and rest for a few days. If the pain continues, you may need to see us at Strulowitz & Gargiulo Physical Therapy for an evaluation and treatment recommendations. If so, contact us at 201-792-3840 to schedule an appointment at our flagship Jersey City clinic, the Jersey City Medical Center Outpatient Therapy Department, our Bayonne office or at Clara Maas Medical Center in Belleville, NJ, or you can click here for more information on safe shoveling techniques.