Proper snow shoveling techniques

Duane Scotti, a part-time physical therapy professor in the School of Health Sciences, is available to offer advice for the best ways to shovel snow.

"Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that is actually a form of exercise," Scotti said. "This heavy work can strain your body if not performed correctly. Common injuries seen are to the lower back and shoulder in particular."

Scotti offers the following safety tips when removing snow:
  • Perform some type of active warm-up or stretching prior to shoveling.
  • Bundle up and dress appropriately for the cold weather.
  • Use correct body mechanics and technique to minimize stress to your back.
  • Watch how you bend. Try and keep a neutral spinal position by bending from your hips and knees.
  • Do not take heavy shovelfuls: take smaller loads and use your leg muscle to lift the load.
  • Using a shovel with a handle that keeps your back straight when lifting is important. A shovel that is too short will force you to bend more from your spine and one that is too long will cause the weight of the snow to be too far away  from your body when lifting. This will also cause excessive stress to your spine.
  • Watch how you rotate. Our bodies are not designed to perform repetitive rotation especially with the weight of heavy snow. Avoid twisting your spine by stepping in the direction and pivoting on your feet to place snow from one area to another. This utilizes your bigger and stronger hip and thigh muscles as opposed to your smaller back muscles. In addition, do not try and throw snow too far this can place undue stress on the rotator cuff of the shoulder.
  • Switch the direction that you are shoveling in as often as possible despite if  you are right or left handed.  This can balance the stress to both sides of your body and give proper rest to the muscles on one side of your body.
  • Take frequent breaks especially depending on your conditioning level.
  • Straighten you spine to counteract all of the bending that occurs with shoveling.  You can do this by walking around with a straight spine as well as performing a backward bending exercise by placing your hands on your lower back and bend your back over your hands slowly and gently.  You may repeat this ten times.
  • Perform stretching exercises following shoveling for the lower back and leg muscles especially.
To schedule an interview with Scotti, please call John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, at 203-206-4449.

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