Look out for your back this winter! 

Winter is right around the corner, and with that brings snow. Most people enjoy watching the snowflakes fall during the winter season, but unfortunately don’t like what comes with it – shoveling. Whether we like it or not, shoveling is an inevitable task while living in the Great White North. Shoveling can be a very physically demanding task, as it requires effort from both our back, core, legs, and abdomen, as well as challenging our cardiovascular system. So, what are some tips and tricks to help prevent lower back strain and other potential injuries while shoveling – to allow us to keep doing the activities we want to do during the winter season.

Frist things first, warm up!

Cold and tight muscles are more likely to strain than warmed up and relaxed muscles. Therefore, prior to shoveling spend 10-15 minutes warming up. This can be as simple as walking around your home or outside, or more specifically shoulder rolls, arm circles and marching on the spot. 

The Equipment

Using the right shovel can make a big difference. For example, if the shovel you are using is too long or too short, you may be putting yourself at an increased risk of injury. The ideal shovel length is approximately four inches below shoulder height, however a shovel within an inch or two of this mark will do just as good. Another tip is to use a smaller or plastic shovel as it lighter than a metal shovel and will reduce the amount of snow you are able to lift at one time. Dressing appropriately, such as wearing loosing-fitting clothing that allows you to move freely, while also keeping you warm. 

Technique is everything

Being mindful of technique can leave you feeling rested and with enough energy to carry on with your daily activities. Using just your upper body, can put you at an increased risk of injury. Therefore, try performing a partial squat or staggering your stance when pushing and lifting snow. Switching sides on which hand is forward on the shovel is also a helpful technique. Although we have a dominant side, it is important to give this side a break every so often. Try shoveling 10 digs with your right and 10 with your left or set a timer on your phone to switch every 5 minutes. 

Pacing and Rest Stops

As we haven’t shoveled snow since last winter, it is important we are taking breaks with shoveling after the first few snow falls, to get our bodies familiarised with the activity. Taking breaks is also important following a large snow fall, as this will be more physically demanding. Perform shoveling gradually and try to avoid rushing as it may cause us to adopt a poor technique. 

Still in Pain?

If you have injured yourself shoveling, or simply want advice on further strategies to prevent injury, give our office a call and one of our highly skilled physiotherapists will be happy to help!

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