Andrea Lee, Osteopath M.OMSc & Stacey Kerslake
We experienced our first snowfall of the winter last week, and now that the dreaded Canadian winter is here, we are digging out our winter gear, and dusting off our snow shovels. Many people underestimate how strenuous shovelling can be, however, every year, our clinic sees an increase in shovelling related injuries, with low back strain being the most common of injuries. Other snow shovelling injuries include sore muscles, herniated disks, broken bones, and even heart attacks, especially in adults over 55.
It is extremely important that you are warmed up and prepared before heading out to move the white stuff. We have broken down the steps you need to take before, during and after snow shovelling to ensure you are taking the best care of your body, while preventing injury.
BEFORE YOU GO OUTSIDE
Exercise: It is important to keep the body moving, even in the winter. For those who exercise regularly, they generally have strong core muscles which allows them to shovel for a longer period of time, and they are more conscious of moving the core and legs when shovelling, which is key to shovelling snow.
Warm Up: Many people do not warm up prior to shovelling. A few stretches or jumping jacks to get your heart rate up will help prepare you for all of that heavy lifting. Start moving inside, before you get moving outside.
Hydrate: Even though it is cold outside, you will SWEAT! Make sure you drink plenty of water before grabbing that shovel to prevent dehydration. It is also important to hydrate while you shovel, and take plenty of breaks. Remember to pace yourself, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Snack: Grab a healthy snack before you start shovelling. A well balanced snack will prevent low blood sugar, and keep your energy up. A banana, protein bar or even a protein packed smoothie are great pre-shovelling snack options.
Dress for the weather: When it comes to any winter activity, especially shovelling it is best to dress in layers. Keeping your muscles warm despite the cold temperatures is very important. Wear a warm base layer that has sweat wicking capabilities, and wear boots that are comfortable with a solid grip to avoid slipping. You can always loose a layer or two if you start to get warm.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when shovelling to prevent injury
Use your legs, not your back: Snow is heavy, especially when wet. Push the snow rather than lifting when and where you can. Keep a wide stance with your front foot close to the shovel, bend your knees and hips and always use your legs to push and lift the snow. Your back will thank you later!
Watch the Weight: Do not overload your shovel. You will not get the job done faster by overloading your shovel, take your time, take your breaks and save your back!
Divide and Conquer: Dividing your shovelling area into sections will help you pace yourself, while also ensuring that you are not overloading your shovel and putting strain on your body. Take breaks with every section, and remember to hydrate!
Smooth Movements: While watching the weight of your shovel, it is important to avoid throwing the snow or twisting your body in any way. Simply scoop up a manageable weight of snow, walk over to where you are disposing of it, and place it on the pile. Smooth and gentle movements are best.
The piles of snow may be high, but your job is not done. It is important to look after your body when you are done shovelling as well.
Warm & stretch: Once inside, take some time to warm up and stretch your arms, legs, and back. This will help to prevent sore muscles later on.
Ice Injuries: You may experience tight muscles up to 72 hours after shovelling, so ensure that you are taking the time to let your body rest. If you end up with a sore back or any other minor injuries, be sure to ice it regularly and do not return to shovelling or other strenuous activities until you are feeling better. Ice the injured area for about 20min every other hour for the first 72 hours.
Remember, that if you are experiencing any lingering back or body pain as a result of shovelling, our Natural Alignments team is here to help you! Book your appointment with us today!