mechanics-of-shoveling-snowSnow shoveling is a potentially dangerous activity – especially for those that are not in the best physical shape. Each year, thousands of individuals experience a wide array of injuries due to the fact that they are not familiar with the proper mechanics of snow shoveling. This winter activity has the potential to contribute to a large host of bodily injuries that pertain to the spine, the shoulders, and the muscles. Generally speaking, most of these injuries occur as a direct result of the repetitive bending, excessive twisting, and the heavy weight of the snow being shoveled. Professional physical therapy specialists work with thousands each year that sustain injuries while shoveling snow. As a matter of fact, it has been determined that the task results in nearly 12,000 hospital visits each year. By learning the proper mechanics of snow shoveling, you have the ability to prevent yourself from becoming part of this statistic.

Eye-Opening Facts Released in 17 Year Study

Shoveling snow is more than just a daunting winter task that is approached by millions each winter with dread; it is a potentially hazardous activity that could result in many health hazards. Recently, the publication known as the “American Journal of Emergency Medicine” released the details of a 17 year study of the health effects of snow shoveling. The most common health issues experienced by those that have had to seek medical care and treatment as a result of engaging in the activity include – but are not limited to – back injuries, pulled muscles, broken bones, injuries to the head, injuries to the shoulder, and tendon complications. Emergency room records, medical clinic records, and records from professional physical therapy facilities were closely evaluated in this study. When all of the information was pulled together, the following was established:

  • The most common reasons individuals experience injuries during snow shoveling activities is because the muscles were overworked, they were hit with the shovel that they were using, or they experienced a fall.
  • The most common physical injuries that happened during snow shoveling activities according to doctors and professional physical therapy specialists were those related to the muscles, to the ligaments, the tendons, and other types of soft tissues in the body.
  • Many individuals experienced issues such as cuts and breakage to the bones. It was established that the arms and the hands were the most common places for a bone breakage or fracture to occur.

The Absolute Basics

In order to avoid experiencing unnecessary complications and injuries during snow shoveling activities, it is important that you look at the activity as a type of exercise. In doing so, you are more likely to take the time to prepare the body for the activity that it is about to engage in. The following is a list of absolute basics that must be adhered to:

  • First, always ensure that you engage in a physical warm-up. According to professional physical therapy specialists, gentle movements – such as standard stretches – are appropriate.
  • You should always dress in a manner that will provide a layer of protection while shoveling snow. Slip-resistant footwear, layered clothing, and gloves are all crucial when outdoors during the winter months.
  • While it is true that you will experience some degree of muscle-based fatigue during snow shoveling activities, you should cease all activity if you start to experience pain.

Body Mechanics

Now that you are aware of the potential dangers associated with shoveling snow and have a few basics on the activity, it is time to learn a little about the mechanics of snow shoveling, as outlined by medical professionals such as professional physical therapy specialists. By engaging in the proper body mechanics, you are less likely to sustain any injuries as a result of your snow shoveling endeavor. Simply do the following:

  • When working with a snow shovel, it is imperative to ensure that you harness the power of the right grip. You should avoid placing your hands too close together. Instead, improve leverage by pulling them apart.
  • Always work to ensure proper alignment in your body. Your back should remain straight and your head should be in perfect alignment with your spine. It is also important to keep the shoulders and hips lined up. Get good balance and grounding with one leg located in front of the other. Be certain that your knees are bent slightly and that your back is kept straight.
  • When shoveling, keep your feet spread apart and bend the knees while keeping your back straight and your chin tucked just a tad. When lifting the shovel, straighten the knees – not the back.
  • You should always walk the shovel to where you are dumping it. You should never throw the snow, sling the snow, or bend and twist to project it.
  • Last, but not least, be sure to lighten the amount of snow that you transport on the shovel. Heavy loads could result in strain and injuries, despite keeping proper form when carrying the load.

Conclusion

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Snow shoveling is a potentially hazardous activity that could result in a wide array of injuries, according to medical professionals. Thousands of people injure themselves each winter trying to clear the frozen debris from their lawns, driveways, and sidewalks. By knowing and practicing the proper mechanics for snow shoveling, you will drastically reduce your chance for injury. If, for some reason, an injury does occur, see a medical professional immediately. If the injury is related to your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones, be certain to set up an appointment with a professional physical therapy specialist today. These professionals will work closely with you to ensure that your recovery is rapid!

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