by Dr. Michelle Collie, DPT, MS, OCS

Here we go again, winter is here and that means it’s time for some snow! I’m sure right about now a lot of you are missing the summer heat and those sunny days at the beach. Others are probably excited for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and so much more, but don’t forget that it’s also time to prepare for some shoveling.

Snow removal can be a pain, but that pain doesn’t have to sit in your lower back. To help avoid any back strains while shoveling this winter, check out these helpful tips on proper shoveling techniques and how to prevent injury’s this icy season.

Watch Dr. Michelle Collie practice proper shoveling form and continue reading for some helpful tips!

Proper Equipment
You want to make sure you’re buying the right shovel. Snow shovels are made specifically for removing snow and have larger dimensions to help cover a larger area. It also comes with the proper handle for lifting the snow. Hold the handle at the top of the shovel and halfway down the shaft, that way you are distributing the weight evenly.

Proper Footwear
Make sure you get yourself a pair of good sturdy boots. Sneakers are not made for the snow, and although Uggs, slippers, or any other type of fashion boot may keep your feet warm, they will not prevent you from falling. A nice pair of boots will have good traction to keep you on your feet.

Proper Form 
1 foot in front of the other. Make sure you are using the proper stance. You want to make sure you have a wide stance, coving a large area. If not, you will be bending in all different directions and could end up pulling a muscle or straining your back. Hold your Stomach. By pulling your stomach muscles in, you are supporting your back and spine, therefore, preventing any lower back injuries. Bend those knees. Don’t bend with your back, that will cause an injury for sure. Instead, do all the bending with your knees and hips, and trust me your body will thank you. No Twisting. Pick up smaller piles and throw it out in front of you. This will help prevent injuries to your back and spine.

30 minutes
There’s no reason to rush, instead, take your time and shovel in 30-minute intervals. Be sure to take long breaks where you warm up with some coffee or hot cocoa. If your back starts to bother you during your 30 minutes on, then take a minute to stretch it out. Bending backward while standing can help reverse the strain from forward bending due to shoveling.  Place your hands on your hip, and while standing straight, bend backward slightly for a few seconds, repeat a few times and then get back to shoveling.

Don’t Push Yourself
If you have suffered from a fall or injury recently don’t shovel your own snow. Your injury may be healed, or you may not think you’re at risk for falling again, but with the slippery surface and heavy snow, this is perfect weather to re-injure yourself and substantially increase your risk of falling. So, call a friend, neighbor, or even those kids down the block, who may want to make a few bucks, to come and help you out.

Born and raised on a sheep farm in New Zealand, Dr. Collie moved to the U.S. in 1995 as part of an overseas program. She worked at Memorial Hospital of RI while pursuing a Master of Science and Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute of Health Care Professionals. Dr. Collie joined Performance Physical Therapy in 2001 when the practice was just a single clinic in Pawtucket, and today she serves as the CEO.

Dr. Collie is an American Physical Therapy Association member and a director on the Rhode Island APTA chapter’s board.  At a National level, she serves as the chair of the APTA’s PR and Marketing committee for private practice physical therapy. She often provides clinical instruction to physical therapists at a local and national level and has guest lectured to medical residents at Brown University. Dr. Collie is also a proud community member and is an active participant and board member of over a dozen community organizes and non-profits in RI.