One of the most common winter injuries that we see in our clinic is lower back injuries from snow removal. If you’re not careful, this snowy chore can lead to serious pain and injury. As a Canadian, shoveling is just part of life so take a minute to read our winter shoveling tips.
Think of Shoveling Snow the Same Way You Think of Any Other Exercise or Activity
Shoveling snow is exercise! Which is great…if you’re ready for it. If you’re not your best physically, you might find a session of shoveling to be overwhelming to your body and heart.
- Ensure regular exercise is part of your daily life so that a seemingly non-dangerous activity like shoveling snow doesn’t take you down.
- Warm up! Why not, after all, it’s absolutely an exercise that requires strength, flexibility, and endurance. You could do a few stretches (lower back and hamstrings would be a good start) and run on the spot or do a few stairs before heading out.
- Take breaks. After a heavy snowfall the job ahead of you could take upwards of an hour. (Longer if you’re one of those fabulous Snow Angels who likes to help others). Every 10-15 minutes, or as needed, put the shovel down and stand up straight. Do a short walk around and drink some water to stop yourself from overheating. You’re likely dressed in your warmest winter wear and sweating up a storm so stay hydrated.
- Use an ergonomic shovel. Shovels have come a long way in the past few years and there are many brands that are designed to take some of the effort and bending out of snow removal. They will have a curved handle that minimizes the bending angle required. Also, a plastic shovel will be lighter than a metal one. A full shovel can weight up to 20 lbs so a proper shovel is a must.
- Push the snow aside instead of lifting it away as often as possible.
- Avoid twisting your body with a full shovel. Instead just pivot your whole body to face the direction you’d like to put the snow.
- Do not extend your arms with a full shovel. Keeping it close to your body when it’s heavy will keep you in a more stable position. You can accomplish this by sliding your hand down the shaft of the shovel as close to the blade as possible and comfortable, and bending your knees before lifting a full scoop.
Lastly don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your family, your neighbour or a nearby friend. Everyone needs a little help sometimes and don’t be afraid to ask if you feel your body is not up to the challenge. You could also assign the task to someone else entirely!
If an injury does occur, our team is here to help you. Chiropractic care, Active Release Techniques, Physio Therapy, Massage Therapy, Laser Therapy, and Muscle Activation Techniques are all available at Active Sports Therapy in Calgary.