Get Ready For Winter Shoveling
Updated: Aug 30
November came in nice and warm, but left with temperatures below freezing. December isn't looking much better (we do live in New England, after all)! The snow flurries and temperatures to date this winter already do not inspire confidence in a mild winter. Unfortunately, snowfall can do a number on our bodies, and we need to be ready for the stresses and strains the snow and ice can do.
How to Get Ready for Winter Shoveling
While snow can look beautiful when looking out the window, it is an entirely different story when you go out into the cold to shovel. Many people are in pain afterwards, and that's a good sign that you aren't shoveling well.
Specific core-focused exercises that stabilize the spine are good ways to prepare for a winter in the driveway. We suggest squats, straight-leg deadlifts, and rows, which train the backside of the body.
Make sure that you keep your belly pulled in while doing the exercises - otherwise, they're meaningless! Think about pulling your belly button to your spine.
What You're Doing Wrong
When your back is in pain from shoveling, chances are that it's from a combination of two things: poor form and core weakness (something the latter causing the former). Poor form begins with rounding the lower back - a common snow-shoveling mistake that can be brought about by a weak core. What happens: Rounding your lower back causes your spinal erectors - a key group of core muscles that support and protect your spine - to disengage. So to lift the load, your body has to rely on weaker stabilizer muscles. The problem: These muscles fatigue easily and it exposes the supportive ligaments to a long stretch, which is painful.
What You Should Be Doing:
Stand up as tall as you can. Note the position of your spine. "Neutral spine" is when your spine is the tallest, curved slightly inward at your lower back and curved slightly outward at your upper back. So if your lower back is rounded or even arched more than it is now, you're no longer in neutral spine. What's more, bending to the side and rotating in either direction can take you out of the neutral spine position.
Bend at the hip joint rather than rounding your back. It trains neutral spine. Lift the snow with your hips and legs, not with your back, and brace your core at the same time. Keep the shovel low - don't lift it above your hips - and take only half-shovels of snow.
And don't forget to beware of ice. Wear shoes/boots with good traction, salt the ice, and walk with a wider stance to avoid falling.
If you or a loved one is in pain, we'd love to help. Call us at FlexPlus Physical Therapy & Balance Centers at 508-650-0060 to set up an initial evaluation for physical therapy in Natick or physical therapy in Southborough. Not sure physical therapy is right for you? Ask us for a FREE consultation! At FlexPlus Physical Therapy, we're With You Every Step of the Way!