You're going to hate us for bringing this up, but yes, another winter is fast approaching. Put those flip-flops, short-shorts, and sunglasses away, and get out your boots, gloves, and Canadian willpower. Before you get out your shovel though, remember that snow shoveling is a huge cause of injuries--especially back injuries--during the winter months.
Due to the weight of densely packed snow, shoveling can be a recipe for a back injury if you’re not careful, and moving that fluffy white stuff around should not be taken lightly (pun intended). The following are 5 tips to keep your spine safe and keep you injury-free this snow-shoveling season.
Use Proper Shoveling Form
If you've ever had a personal trainer that said, "Watch your form!” these are words you'll want to keep in mind on that driveway of yours. Pushing the snow to one side--and avoiding lifting it altogether--should be your go-to method. However, if you must lift the snow, remember:
- Don't bite off more than you can chew--stick to lighter loads.
- Pivot your whole body when moving with the load--twisting puts your spine in a vulnerable position.
- Face the load head on with your hips and shoulders.
- Keep your back straight, bend with your knees, and lift with your legs.
While you may want to school your next-door neighbour and scrape that driveway clean as soon as humanly possible, remember to take frequent breaks as well. Just like with any weight training, your body needs rest periods In order to recover—overdoing it could wind you up with an injury. One easy way to break up the work is to get out there early. If it starts snowing, don’t wait for it to build up—clear it as it comes.
Have the Right Equipment
As pop duo LMFAO says, Every day I’m Shovelin. If that’s the case (and we know it is) then it’s worth getting the right shovel. Pick a shovel that is an appropriate length for you and is made of lightweight materials.
It’s also a good idea to wear a good pair of boots. The last thing your spine needs is a hard fall on the pavement, so good treads are key so that you have proper traction when you’re lifting heavy loads. Putting down a layer of salt or sand for some extra friction is not a bad idea either.
Start with Healthy Posture
Bad posture sets us up for injuries by limiting our range of motion, and putting extra strain on our joints and spine. Due to the nature of our modern lives, unfortunately many of us suffer from bad posture.
Taking steps to improve posture can help prevent all kinds of injuries--whether it's on the driveway, in the gym, or in day-to-day life. Mobility and strength exercises, minimizing time spent sitting during the day, and chiropractic care are all ways to prevent and treat poor posture.
Always Warm Up
Just like you wouldn't jump under a 200-pound bar and start squatting the moment you walk through the gym doors, you shouldn't lift heavy snow with this attitude either. As any fitness expert will tell you: warm up is essential. Doing any demanding physical activity with cold, tight muscles is asking for trouble.
To prep for your all-natural, ice-cold workout, simply think of how you might warm up at the gym. Five to ten minutes of light aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, or skipping is a great way to start. Top that off with a few dynamic stretches such as air squats, lunges, and arm swings, and your muscles should be warm and ready for action!
Don't Shovel At All
This one may sound like a cop-out, but it's not! Just like we're not all cut out for P90x or a powerlifting routine, some of us simply shouldn't be out there lifting heavy chunks of frozen H2O. Ask yourself honestly (or your doctor) if you're up for it this season. Age, medical history, previous injuries, and your current level of physical fitness are all variables to consider.
If you have decided to hang up your shovel this year, there are plenty of ways to still get that driveway cleared. You can invest in a snow blower, hire a snow removal company, and of course you can always enlist young family members!
Are aches and pains preventing you from being more active this winter? Contact Downsview Chiropractic today, and we'll help you find a solution. As experts in chiropractic care, massage therapy, and naturopathy, we can help you start moving and feeling your best again.