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Enjoy the winter season: Avoid snow shoveling injuries

11/22/2013

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – It’s that time of year again. It’s time to put away the rakes and break out the snow shovels.

Snow, though sometimes described as fluffy and light, can, in reality, be very heavy and require hours of shoveling.  That can mean sore muscles, sprains and even serious injury.

“On average, more than 11,000 people suffer snow shoveling injuries each year,” said Ron Emge, Physical Therapist at Summit Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “Snow shoveling can cause stress to your lower back which can lead to painful muscle strains, herniated discs or disc damage.”

So, how do we avoid a snow shoveling injury? According to Emge, the first thing we need to do is stretch.

“Stretching before any physical activity, including shoveling, will help prepare your muscles for the work they are about to do,” he explained. “But there are other things you should also do to avoid injury.”

Emge provided six tips to help prevent back injuries when shoveling snow:

  • Use shovels with ergonomically designed handles.  These are crafted to keep our bodies more upright which reduces back strain.
  • Keep the snow shovel close to your body when shoveling
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it
  • When you do lift, do not twist your back.  Instead, walk the snow toward the desired destination.
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Take frequent breaks

“Shoveling small amounts of snow at a time more frequently may take longer, but could help prevent back injuries,” Emge said.

According to Emge, proper lifting techniques can help us avoid injury, not only when shoveling snow, but also when lifting boxes of decorations or other heavy objects.

“It’s important for us to take our time and use the proper body mechanics when lifting heavy objects,” he explained. “Physical therapists like me and my colleagues at Summit Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation are trained to teach you these proper techniques.  If you’ve already had a back injury, we can help you get back in motion.”

Summit Physical Medicine and Rehabiltation offers four locations in Shippensburg, Chambersburg and Waynesboro. Visit www.SummitHealth.org/Rehab for more information.

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