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How To Prevent Snow Shoveling From Being a Pain in the Back

Forecasters are predicting severe weather in the months ahead. Whether the resulting snow is a dusting or a blizzard, subsequent shoveling can be a real pain, particularly in your back.

"Back injuries, falls and fractures are often the result of shoveling snow," says Jennifer Brusca, physical therapist and clinical manager of Kessler Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. "However, by using proper shoveling techniques and some common sense, individuals can help reduce the risk of injury."

The following guidelines are offered by Kessler Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation:

Prepare yourself. Be sure to stretch before, during and after you shovel.

Use a shovel that is ergonomically correct — one that has a curved handle.

Wear snow shoes or boots with good traction to avoid slipping. Dress according to the weather conditions, in clothes that are not restrictive but keep you comfortably warm.

Watch where you walk. Avoid uneven surfaces and icy patches.

Lift with your legs, not with your back. To do so, keep your feet apart, bend your knees and keep a slight arch in your back.

Keep the load close to your body by keeping your hands in near your hips. Try not to reach with the shovel.

Avoid twisting while shoveling, especially when the shovel is loaded with snow.

Walk to where you are piling the snow, rather than throwing the snow from a distance. Avoid quick, jerky movements.

Change your position so that you do not lift continuously to one side.

Don't hold your breath while lifting. Inhale and exhale normally.

Carry more loads of light snow instead of fewer heavier loads — it decreases stress on the lower back.

Pace yourself. Take frequent short breaks to alleviate early fatigue.

Most importantly, listen to your body; it will tell you when you've done enough. If you begin to feel tired, sore or achy, you need to take a rest and resume activity later. Keep in mind that pain and/or pressure in the chest is not muscular. Stop shoveling and seek medical attention immediately.

For more information, call (888) KESSLER, or visit its Web site,

Copyright 1999 Health Resources Publishing

© 2000 Health Resources Publishing