McFarland Clinic

Reduce Your Risk: Shovel Safe and Slipping Tips

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December 20, 2012

Do icy sidewalks and parking lots have you worried about getting out and about for fear of falling? Have you experienced back pain after shoveling snow? 

McFarland Clinic Physical Therapist Jennifer Handlos, MPT offers some tips for a safer, more enjoyable winter.

“There are several things you can do to prevent falls during the winter season,” says Handlos.

Follow these tips to decrease risk of falling:

  1. Check your shoes or boots. How much traction do they have? More traction will help keep your feet steady on icy surfaces. Snow and ice cleats are available to wear over your shoes to grip ice and reduce falls.
  2. Install hand railings. Hand railings help to give you support when negotiating stairs. If already in place, are they sturdy enough to support you if you lose your balance?
  3. Allow extra time. When it is icy, slow down and take your time walking. The faster you the harder it is to keep your balance.
  4. Keep shovels and salt inside your house or attached garage. These items are used to clear sidewalks or driveways so you do not have to walk on them when they are slick. It defeats their purpose if you must walk on slippery surfaces to get to them.
  5. Get help if you must walk on slippery surfaces. Get a steady arm to support you or use your assistive device to help improve your balance. 
  6. Exercise! Increasing the strength in your legs will help steady you if you slip and will make it easier for you to get back up in the event that you do fall.

“Snow shoveling season is quickly approaching. The repetitive activity of shoveling can cause strain to the muscles of the back”, says Handlos.

Follow these tips to decrease risk of injury:

  1. Bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back. Keep your back as straight as possible.
  2. Step in the direction that you are throwing the snow, this will reduce twisting.
  3. Lift smaller loads of snow instead of heavy shovelfuls.
  4. Use a shovel that has a shaft that allows you to keep your back straight when shoveling. Too short of shafts require you to bend over further, too long of shafts increase the load at the end of the shovel requiring your muscles to work harder.
  5. Take breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around to extend the back. Perform backward bending to reverse the forward bending in the lower back required for shoveling.

For more information on the McFarland Clinic Physical Therapy Department in Carroll call 712-792-3311.

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