Just peek outside! The first snow of this already colder-than-average season is falling and sticking… The time is here to act proactively and keep Michigan’s wonderful winter weather from taking a toll on your back. Following a few important tips outlined by our colleague Ann Duffy, M.A., P.T., could make all the difference if you need to plow through the snow. Ann serves as an officer of the American Physical Therapy Association and if interested, you can more from Ann at: www.physiquality.com.
- Warm up inside before you start. Stretching your muscles and warming up your body — before you go outside into the cold — will reduce the risk of muscle strain.
- Use your abdominals. Strong abdominals will keep the natural inward curve of your back. Bending over while shoveling makes your back vulnerable to injury.
- Don’t twist your body. Twisting your back to pick up or dump snow adds strain to your back. Instead, keep one foot in front of the other and always make sure that your feet face the direction in which you are picking up and dumping snow.
- Use your legs to lift. This will relieve some of the pressure on your back, so that the weight of the snow is supported by your entire body, not just your back
- Lift loads that are manageable. Even though it may take you a little longer to shovel smaller amounts at a time, this will reduce the strain on your back. Remember, you will be moving the shovel over and over, so you don’t want to use all your strength in one lift.
- Take breaks. Stand up tall, place your hands on your low back and gently bend backwards 10 times. Doing this every 10-20 minutes will help you keep your back loose and reflect on your progress.
- Take your time! Rushing, lifting heavy loads and losing your balance can result in injuries.
Please remember though: If your back isn’t up to it (you know who you are!) follow the advice of Jane E. Brody at the New York Times and ask one of the kids on your block to help you out. Or, hire a removal service. It’s so much better to part with a little money and keep yourself safe. See more of Jane E. Brody’s winter weather shoveling tips at: www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/health/08brody.html