Body Mechanics

25/03/14 8:24 AM


Jennifer Rudzinski

Jennifer Rudzinski, DPT

As the holiday season approaches so does the chance for snowfall here in New England! Not many people realize the risk of injury that can occur with improper body mechanics during snow removal. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 16,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries

that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually.  The most commonly injuries are of the shoulder, back, or neck.  So what can you do to be sure this doesn’t happen to you? Below are some simple tips to prevent shoveling injuries:

Warm Up. Shoveling, like any other exercise activity, requires a warm up to prevent injuries. Research consistently shows that tight muscles are more prone to injury. To eliminate this problem you need to increase flexibility through simple stretching. In addition, a light to brisk walk or marching in place activity can wake up muscles.

Shovel smart. Shovel small pieces of snow at a time opposed to heavy loads. Smaller loads mean less stress through the shoulders and your back. Shoveling causes a repetitive motion throughout your body’s joints which means that you need to be sure you are able to pace yourself and take breaks when needed, preferably every 15-20 minutes or so.  It is beneficial to clear snow more frequently to ensure lighter loads.

Wear proper footwear. Falls are always a risk when snow or ice is out. You need to be sure you are wearing proper footwear that has intact gripping on the soles to avoid injury. If necessary, use sand or salt to spread on icy or slick areas.

Monitor your body. Be sure you are drinking plenty of water to decrease any possibility of dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or significant pain stop what you are doing and get help immediately!

Always lift with proper technique!

  • Always face the object you intend to lift.
  • When lifting, bend your knees and use them when moving from a squatting position to upright standing remembering to keep your back straight to avoid any unnecessary stress.
  • Your body should move as a whole unit.  Avoid twisting your low back; instead turn your entire body.
  • Heavy loads should be kept close to your body, try and avoid having your arms extended or tossing the snow.
  • Walk the shovel to the destination keeping it close to your body. If possible, push the snow rather than lifting.

Perform back extension exercises. During shoveling your body is primarily in a forward flexed or bent position. This position causes increased pressure and strain on your lower back. In order to counteract these forces you should perform standing backbends when you take a break to prevent injury.

What can PTC do for you? As a McKenzie certified clinic we specialize in treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. Our therapists are competent in various disorders and can quickly develop a treatment plan on how to alleviate your symptoms and return you back to your normal activities. Rehab will focus on decreasing inflammation, increasing muscle strength and alleviating pain. The main goal at PTC is to get you back to your life as quickly as possible!

For more information please contact, Jennifer Rudzinski, DPT at 860-585-5800 or jenrud@ptcbristol.com, to help with all your rehabilitation needs. The Physical Therapy Center of Bristol, LLC has an A+ rating with the BBB with offices in both Bristol (860-585-5800) and Southington (203-272-8490) for your convenience. 

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