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Shoveling Injuries and Preventions

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Shoveling Injuries and Preventions

Dec 29, 2014

The snow is falling, and that means you're shoveling. You might be surprised to find out shoveling snow is a common cause for physical therapy and possibly surgery during the winter. Physical therapist Linda Scholl talks about the types of shoveling injuries she sees coming in around this time of the year, and tells you how to prevent them.

Episode Transcript

Linda Scholl: We all know it's coming. The snow's going to fly. What we need to do is get strong so that we can face that shoveling ahead. I'm Linda Scholl, physical therapist at the Orthopedic Center and that's coming up next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physician and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Linda Scholl: Oftentimes, we see individual who thinks they're super-strong and they get out there and we've seen it in the clinic, I've seen it in the clinic. They've decided that they're the ones who are going to shovel the entire walk themselves and what they do is end up having a rotator cuff strain or a tear. I'm seeing them after surgery and we're helping repair what could have been possibly prevented had they have been a little bit more heads-up on things.

The injuries happen when you're tired and you're sore and you're over-doing it. You're trying to lift something heavier than you need to and that's when the shoulder will often give out. I think it's a good idea for all of us to kind of think ahead. We know that we're going to get a big dump and it's a good idea to kind of prepare for it.

So, pull out the cans of soup, pull out some milk jugs and start strengthening your arms. I want you to pick up the milk jug and pull it like hanging down to your side and pull it up like a bicep curl. You know a milk jug weighs about 8 pounds so fill it up to what you need. You can put water in it for whatever weight you feel like is appropriate for your strength and you can start doing some bicep curls with lighter weights, like maybe a can of tomato paste or something, let's say. You can go ahead and lift your arms up straight out in front of with your elbows straight, all the way in front to overhead and all the way out to the sides like a jumping-jack. And exercises along this line will help you so that when it comes time for you to actually shovel, your shoulders won't hurt as bad and hopefully you won't be coming in here to see us. You'll be healthier.

If you do have to shovel and your shoulders are strong, it's also a good idea to make sure that you've engaged your belly muscles; you've pulled your belly button to the back of your spine. You're making sure you able to breathe helpfully and you've can dig into that snow with your knees bent and you can engage the belly and start the shovel that way. Your shoulders will be strong but your body needs to be involved too, legs and belly. We need to make sure that we engage our legs and our trunk so that the whole shoulder isn't the brunt of the activity. It's not what's going to be the injury. Shoveling is a whole-body activity. It's not just your arms and we want you to be healthy and strong so that you can enjoy the winter even though you might not enjoy the shoveling.

Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope. University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.