WATCH: The safest way to clear away snow

By Kelly McCarthy

February 5, 2014 Updated Feb 5, 2014 at 8:02 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Heavy snowfall is a chore for towns and villages to clean up, but the driveways and sidewalks are left for residents to take care of themselves.

Shoveling is just another part of winter in upstate New York but has some hidden dangers that sends more than 11,000 people to the emergency room each year and responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the United States.

A physical therapist at Lourdes Hospital, Christine Osgood, said the most common injuries from shoveling are related to lower back pain.

The safest way to clear away snow is to bend and lift the shovel with the knees.

When someone bends down and scoops up a shovel full of snow, bring that weight back closer to the body.

Osgood said lifting weight out in front of the body can feel 10 times heavier to the lower back discs than if that weight is close to the torso.

"It has to do with leverage," Osgood said, "When the weight's further away from your back it makes your back work a lot harder, and our back muscles are very small muscles, they're not large like our thigh and hip muscles that can handle that sort of thing."

Take a break after 10 or 15 minutes of physical activity.

"They just want to get the job done so they kind of forget about their backs or taking breaks," said Osgood.

After all the hard work is over Osgood said she tells her patients to do a simple back stretch. It's the repetitive motion that really wears down the body and joints, and causes injury.

"If you do something repetitively in one direction," said Osgood, "You should go in the opposite direction to help make up for that and get things back into place."

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.