Snow Shoveling Injuries: Now is the Time to Think Prevention

By John R. Mishock, PT, DPT, DC
Mishock Physical Therapy & Associates

For many of us, we can only hope for a mild winter without snow. Invariably the snow will fall and the responsibility of snow removal will occur. With snow removal many individuals will sustain injury. On average, 11,500 people are treated at the emergency rooms each year for snow shoveling related injuries. Seventy four percent of snow removal injuries are related to muscle, ligament or joint injury of the shoulders, arms, back, hips or knees. Of those, low back pain is most common representing 54% of all snow removal injuries. Slip and falls because of ice or snow cause 20% of the injuries and can lead to fractures, dislocation and other soft tissue injuries. (Center for Injury and Research and Policy, 2011).

In order to prevent snow shoveling injuries, it is essential to use proper body mechanics and ergonomics. When possible, push snow to one side rather than lifting it. Pushing uses the larger muscle groups of the hips and legs while maintaining proper body alignment creating better momentum to move heavy objects, such as snow.

1. When it is necessary to lift the snow, make sure to use following technique.
2. Face towards the snow you intend to lift. The shoulders and hips should be square to snow.
3. Grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle.
4. Bend at the hips and push the chest out, creating the backward curve in your low back (lordosis).
5. Bend your knees and lift with the leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
6. Keep the load light, do not lift too heavy a pile of snow.
7. Keep the shovel close to your body at your center of gravity.
8. Avoid twisting the back to dump or throw the snow.
9. Pivot your whole body to and face the direction you want to dump the snow.
10. Walk to the new location to deposit the snow rather than reaching or tossing the snow.
11. Always take your time and be careful with each step you take to avoid slip and falls.

If you adhere to the above precautions snow removal can be done effectively while reducing the risk of injury.

At Mishock Physical Therapy our staff would welcome the opportunity to help you decrease pain, improve your function and return you to the highest quality of life possible. Please give us a call for a FREE phone consultation at (610)327-2600 or email us at mishockpt@comcast.net. Also, visit our website at: www.mishock.wpengine.com. Mishock Physical Therapy has 6 convenient locations to serve you in Skippack, Phoenixville, Gilbertsville, Limerick, Barto and Stowe!

Dr. Mishock is one of only a few clinicians with doctorate level degrees in both physical therapy and chiropractic in the state of PA.