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How to Avoid Injury While Shoveling Snow

Removing ice and snow can take its toll on your back. The Rehabilitation Institute at Silver Cross Hospital offers a free lower back screening.

During this time of year, it’s relaxing to sip a steamy cup of hot cocoa and watch as a steady stream of snowflakes falls from the clouds, forming a sparkly blanket of snow all over the outdoors.

But these cozy winter afternoons often are interrupted by the daunting realization that the snow must now be shoveled from the roads and walkways.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year approximately 16,500 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually. Each year in the United States, snow shoveling causes thousands of muscle sprains, broken bones, hurt backs, head injuries, and even deadly heart attacks.

A sponsored article by Silver Cross Hospital.

So, how can you prepare to shovel snow safely to avoid injuring yourself?

"Since shoveling snow is definitely considered moderate exercise, people need to check with their physician to see if they should even shovel snow, especially if they have a heart condition or do not exercise regularly," says Valerie Paluszak, Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital. "If they are cleared to shovel, they need to take precautions to avoid hurting themselves — especially their lower back, which is one of the most common injuries that often occurs from shoveling snow."

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these snow-shoveling injury prevention tips:

  • Dress appropriately by wearing slip-resistant shoes and light, layered, water-repellent clothing that provides both ventilation and insulation.
  • Warm up with some light stretch exercises.
  • Push snow. And if you have to lift snow, use the stronger leg muscles for support, not the back.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side because the twisting motion may stress your back.
  • Shovel early and often. The amount of snow that has to be removed is less and keeps it from freezing or partially melting and becoming harder to remove.
  • Use a proper snow shovel with a pole that is longer, adjustable, and curved to decrease the amount of bending needed to lower your risk of muscle injury. More user-friendly shovels are typically made of lighter materials such as plastic or lightweight aluminum. 
  • Pace yourself and take frequent breaks. Don’t shovel more than 30 to 60 minutes, just like you would during a regular exercise session.

And a safer option is to hire someone to remove the snow, while you sit back and enjoy drinking a cup of hot cocoa.

Free Lower Back Pain Screening

Suffering from lower back pain? Individuals experiencing aches, pain, spasm, stiffness or weakness of the lower back can find relief and treatment recommendations at a screening by a Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago physical therapist. This FREE screening occurs on Jan. 15 at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) at Silver Cross in Homer Glen, 12701 West 143rd St. Call 815-300-6288 to schedule an appointment.

About the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital

Silver Cross Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) have teamed up to expand post-acute physical medicine and rehabilitation services in Will County and the southwest Chicagoland communities. The partnership provides world-class rehabilitation care for a range of conditions for patients close to home. Silver Cross is the only healthcare facility in the area with this breadth of services in partnership with RIC. Together, Silver Cross and RIC provide rehabilitation services in inpatient and outpatient care settings at four locations — at the main Hospital at I-35 and Route 6 and the Silver Cross Professional Buildings in Homer Glen, New Lenox and West Joliet. Additionally, the RIC team provides physical therapy services for patients on the hospital’s medical and surgical floors. For more information about RIC at Silver Cross, call 815-300-7110 or visit www.silvercross.org.

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