Health

Injury Prevention Tips When Shoveling Snow

Reality Check: Winter is here.

Is your body ready to take on the strain of shoveling hundreds of pounds of snow?

 Snow shoveling requires a high level of cardiovascular and muscular endurance. It is a demanding, functional activity involving pushing, lifting, throwing and twisting motions.

Individuals who are not well conditioned my experience strain on their heart and lungs as well as muscle or joint injury while shoveling.  It is very important to listen to your body while shoveling to best ward off injury and reap the benefits from this winter wonderland work out.

 Follow this advice to stay injury free this season:

 While shoveling, be aware of the signs of cardiac distress: shortness of breath, chest pain(uncomfortable chest pressure, squeezing, fullness, pain, burning or heaviness) and/or upper body pain (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back) or discomfort, palpitations, anxiety, sudden fatigue, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness

 A warm up may help to save your joints and muscles from injury

  • A quick walk around the block
  • A ride on a stationary bike, a few jumping jacks
  • Torso rotations, leg swings, arm swings

 Dress for the weather

  • Dress to be active. Don’t overdress; excessive sweating will make you feel colder.
  • When keeping joints and muscles warm, you are best able to avoid aches, pains and injury.
  • When joints and muscles are warm they have better range of motion and flexibility.
  • Wear warm boots with good treads to help prevent falls.

Using the proper shovel can make all the difference

  • Choose a proper snow shovel for the job and for your body
  • A shovel should be the appropriate length whereby when bending slightly at the knees you can hold the shovel comfortably in hands.
  • Choose a light weight shovel
  • A bent handle shovel will allow for less back flexion during shoveling
  • Choose a shovel with a small blade to decrease the temptation to lift and push very heavy loads

Proper technique for shoveling snow

  • Always use your legs as to push and lift! Squat down with legs shoulder width apart to pick up the snow. Keep the back straight!  Your legs have the body’s largest muscles; you might as well put them to work to save your arms and back.
  • Keep heavy masses of snow as close to your body as possible and deposit it onto the bank instead of throwing it.
  • Tighten your core muscles while moving snow to support your back
  • Step in the direction you want to throw the snow, never twist while throwing the snow.
  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears (shoulder blades back and down) to allow your shoulder muscles to move most efficiently 

Strategy

  • Have a “plan of attack” that is right for your health and fitness level
  • Listen to your body! Take breaks every 15min of shoveling.
  • After heavy snow falls, skim the top layer of snow off first to lighten the load
  • Try and shovel the snow in stages. Don’t wait for it all to fall.
  • Don’t move the snow twice. Shovel towards the edges of the rectangle.
  • When possible, “team-up”.  Recruit neighbors and family members to help the shoveling process (especially the neighbor with the snow blower)

Talk to your Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who help people of all ages and lifestyles gain and maintain their desired level of active living and physical mobility. Physiotherapists not only treat injuries, they also teach you how to prevent the onset of pain or injury that can limit your activity.