With the winter months comes snow for many of us, especially here in Minnesota. It can be beautiful and magical out there with the sparkling white snow cover, but it can also be a hidden danger for people. Unfortunately, many people experience injuries and pain due to shoveling snow. The good thing is, these can often be prevented. Here are some important tips to remember for shoveling snow to keep you safe and injury-free.

Tip #1: Stretch prior to shoveling

Stretching out your body beforehand can prevent injuries due to pulled muscles. I recommend taking five to ten minutes to stretch your back and leg muscles out so that they are ready for use. When you stretch, hold it for 30 seconds each time to get the full benefit of the stretch.

Tip #2: Pushing is better than pulling

This is a great rule of thumb! When you can push the snow with the shovel it is much easier on the body. Use your legs and keep the shovel close to your body so your spine is straight. Sometimes you don’t even need to pick up the shovel, you just simply push the snow out of the way. Keep the shovel close to your body, don’t overly extend it in front of you.

Tip #3: Keep your back straight

When you do need to pick the snow up with the shovel, do this with your leg muscles and keep your spine straight. Hinge from the waist and hips so that you are sitting your buttocks low, and then you are using those muscles to do the work rather than your back.

Tip #4: Never twist your body

Turn and throw while facing the area you need to remove the snow to. Twisting the body with a load is very tough on your back and the structures inside the spine like the discs. Instead, move your feet and body at the same time in order to get rid of the snow.

Tip #5: Take breaks

When fatigue sets in, we start to make mistakes. This is when form suffers and also we are more likely to have a fall. Take a break if you feel as though you are getting fatigued. Break up the task into two or even three separate outings, and go inside to rest and drink water in between as needed.

Tip #6: Use your core

The more you can keep your core tight, the better. Practice pulling your belly button in toward your spine while you are shoveling snow. This creates an internal corset around your spine that protects you from injury.

These tips will help keep you safe and pain-free during these winter months. And remember, if you unfortunately do get injured while shoveling then go see a physical therapist as soon as you can. A PT can help you recover quickly and also work with you to make sure it does not happen again in the future.

Cheers to happy snow shoveling and enjoying the great outdoors, because we don’t have time to be injured, there are too many fun activities to be had in the snow!