Best tips for safe, injury-free snow shoveling

man shoveling snowFor the better part of the winter, Metro Detroiters will be digging themselves out of snowfalls and blizzards until March arrives and ushers in spring.

Until then, physical therapists from McLaren Oakland offer the following tips to safely combat the sometimes-physically demanding removal of a fresh snowfall.

To prepare yourself prior to shoveling:
"¢ Walk or perform another activity to promote blood flow to the tissues you are about to use.
"¢ Stretch by sliding your hands down the front your thighs while moving your pelvis backwards. Your spine should remain in the same position as if you were standing tall. Avoid bending forward through your spine. Hold a gentle stretch through the back of your legs for 10 seconds, perform six times.
"¢ Place the shovel handle behind the back of your pelvis and hold on with both hands while keeping your knees slightly bent. Gently rotate to one side and hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat six times and also perform on the opposite side. With this technique, your navel and chest should move together to avoid any twist through your lower back. You should feel a gentle stretch through the outside of your hip.

Follow these important tips while shoveling, remembering that even light snow can be very physically demanding:
"¢ Bend through your knees to minimize bending forward with your trunk. Lift with your legs. This will prevent excessive stress through your lower back.
"¢ Try to maintain slight tension throughout your abdominal muscles to stabilize your core.
"¢ Avoid twisting when lifting heavy or wet snow.
"¢ Lift lighter loads of snow.
"¢ Take frequent breaks.
"¢ Ask the kids or grandkids to help out whenever possible.

If you have any questions regarding your health and physical condition before shoveling snow, contact your physician. To make an appointment with a McLaren Oakland family medicine physician, visit