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With winter just around the corner, Eagle River physical therapist Chris Wilson would like Eagle River residents to keep in mind that shoveling is a strenuous activity that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

When done correctly, says the owner of Ideal Motion Physical Therapy, it can offer you a beneficial, full-body workout. If approached haphazardly, however, the chore can leave you susceptible to injury in the back, neck, and shoulders.

“Shoveling can be your own little cross-training exercise – your own little full-body exercise for the day – if you approach it safely and with a good, smart technique,” Wilson said. “However, if you grab your shovel without preparing your body, use bad technique and ignore warning signs, it’s an activity that can lead you to pain and injury.”

With injury prevention in mind, Wilson offers the following suggestions for manually clearing your walkways and driveway from snow without putting excessive strain on the body:

Be Wary of Mornings: Your back is most susceptible to soreness and injury during the first hour or two after rising from bed. So be cautious early in the day and, if necessary, address the snow later in the day.

Warm Up: Before you even pick up the shovel, stretch your back, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, shoulder and neck as each point along the kinetic chain will bear some of the load.

Dress Up, Then Down: While shoveling, your body will warm up. That said, always bundle up to begin the activity. “You can always remove layers as your body starts to heat up,” Wilson said. “Staying warm from beginning to end will ensure pliability in the muscles.”

Bend Your Knees; Hands Apart: Shovel with a slight bend in your knees to take some bend from the back and to allow the gluts, the quads, and the hamstrings to pick up some of the work. Also, slide your hands apart for better leverage.

Load and Throw: Use the motion of shoveling and its momentum to your advantage. Shovel in one fluid motion rather than a series of individual scooping, lifting, carrying, and throwing motions.

Stop, or Don’t Start: If you start to feel discomfort or pain in your back, neck, shoulder or arms, stop shoveling and, if necessary, seek medical attention. And if you’re not used to heavy types of labor, Wilson says, explore other options for clearing your sidewalks and driveway, such as hiring a neighborhood teenager or buying a snow blower.

If aches, pains or injury are keeping you from shoveling and doing other tasks around the home – or simply keeping you from the things you enjoy in life – visit a physical therapist like those on the Ideal Motion Physical Therapy team for a full assessment. Physical therapists are specifically certified medical professionals whose goals are to help reduce pain and improve or restore mobility.