News | Published November 26, 2019 | Written by Samantha Andrekanic, physical therapy technician, Mount Nittany Health Fit for Play

Don’t let the cold weather get you bent out of shape

With winter weather quickly approaching, it is almost time to get out those snow shovels and Ice Melt. It is important to recognize the symptoms of muscle strains from shoveling snow and other winter weather-related activities.

Shoveling snow can cause muscle strains that include acute back pain, overexertion of the muscles and even falls due to loss of balance on a slippery surface. These injuries commonly can be treated with physical therapy and at-home exercises. A muscle strain occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. Acute muscle strains are due to the muscle tearing suddenly and unexpectedly. They are more common in colder weather because your muscles are stiffer at lower temperatures.

There are precautions you can take to prevent yourself from straining a muscle.

  • Stretch out your muscles and allow them to warm up before sending yourself out into the cold. Some stretches could include bringing your knees into your chest, cat/cow stretches and trunk rotations. These simple exercises can help prevent the muscles from tightening up when you are outside.
  • When shoveling snow, try to avoid any sudden rotations or movements with your trunk. Keep a wider stance and bend at your knees while tilting at your hips. This allows you to have a flat back. Keep the snow that you are lifting in your shovel under eight pounds. Allow yourself to take frequent breaks if necessary.
  • Take time to warm up inside. It is important to repeat the stretching exercises listed above when you are finished shoveling the snow to avoid stiffness and soreness.

By following these recommendations for snow shoveling, you can have a safe and productive winter.