Don’t let shoveling become a pain in the back!

Don’t let shoveling become a pain in the back!

Shoveling snow improperly can cause back and neck pain. Improper technique, such as twisting, combined with lifting the three to five kilograms of one shovel of snow can result in serious aches and pain. Here are some tips on how to shovel properly.

Before You Start

  • Health status. Talk to your healthcare provider about your health status before shoveling. Especially if you have had a heart attack or any other form of heart disease, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, are a smoker or lead a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. These are stimulants that may increase your heart rate and create extra stress on the heart.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water; you can still become dehydrated in the cold winter months.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear several layers so you can remove a layer as you get warm.
  • Wear proper footwear. Shoes and boots with solid treads on the soles can help to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
  • Pick the right shovel. Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel. A smaller blade will put less strain on your body by allowing you to lift smaller portions of snow. An ergonomically correct model with a curved handle will help prevent injury and fatigue. Spraying the blade with a silicone-based lubricant will prevent the snow from sticking to the shovel and allowing it to slide off more easily.
  • Don’t let the snow pile op. Removing small amounts of snow on a frequent basis will create less stress on your body in the long run.

Ready to Shovel

  • Warm up. Before removing any snow, warm up for five to ten minutes to get the joints moving and your blood flowing. Try marching on the spot, climb the stairs, or go for a quick walk around the block. Follow up with some gentle stretches for the back (such as the knee to chest stretch), arms and shoulders (such as the body hug stretch), and legs (such as forward bends from a seated position).
  • Push, don’t throw, the snow. Avoid throwing the snow, push it to one side instead. If you must pick up the snow, avoid twisting and turning; position yourself to gently toss the snow straight at the snow pile.
  • Shovel with ease, use your knees. Use your knees, along with your leg and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.
  • Watch for ice. Be careful on icy walkways and slippery surfaces, they can cause you to slip and fall. Coarse sand, ice salt, or kitty litter can help give sidewalks and driveways more traction, reducing the chance of a slip or fall.
  • Take a break. If you feel tired or short of breath, stop and rest. Take a break for a moment or two for every 10 or 15 minutes of shoveling. This is especially important if the snow is wet and heavy. Stop shoveling immediately if you feel chest or back pain, feel dizzy, are short of breath or if your heartbeat is rapid.
  • Work together. Share the work and shovel the driveway and walkways together. It will not only lighten the load but it will also make the experience more enjoyable, allowing you to socialize with your family and neighbours while helping each other create a safe walkway.

How a chiropractor can help

Chiropractors can help prevent back problems by teaching you how to protect your back when shoveling and many other helpful tips and exercises. Should you suffer an injury; a chiropractor can also provide relief for your pain, whether it is back, neck, arm, leg or any other joint or muscle pain. Studies have shown that 80% of Canadians will suffer from back pain in their lifetime. If required, a chiropractor can treat your pain through a variety of methods. These can include: spine and joint adjustment, acupuncture, modalities such as TENS or laser therapy, soft tissue therapy, and therapeutic exercises.