It’s official, winter is here and the snow is here (hopefully to stay). For all you snowmobilers out there I know you’re hoping for more snow to build up that base on the trails. For everyone out there, I’m here to remind you of some safety tips when shoveling snow to prevent you from getting injured this winter. I’m sure you’ve heard most of these tips before but reminders are always helpful. The more of these tips you can apply to your shoveling days the better off you’re going to be.
To begin, make sure you start yourself out on the right foot. Do some gentle stretching before you even get bundled up. Try to focus on gently stretching your hamstrings, quads, calves, and shoulders. You can even do a short warmup of simply walking around the house. While doing this make sure to hydrate by drinking a glass of water. Next make sure to dress in some layers so you stay warm. Just because you’re exercising and potentially sweating doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have warm layers on.
Choose the right shovel for the job! Many places now sell ergonomic shovels that are easier on your back. They’re generally lighter and may even have a curved handle which keeps your back straighter while you shovel which again puts less strain on your body. This is a new one to me, but I heard it can be helpful to wax your shovel so the snow slides right off. You can use floor wax, car wax, or even cooking spray.
As far as proper body mechanics goes, try to focus on pushing the snow straight ahead of you. When you need to lift the snow make sure to bend from your knees and lift with your legs. If you’re shoveling correctly, the following day your legs should be sore, not your back. You should also focus on activating your core (ab muscles). By activating your core, you’ll be protecting your back. Imagine pulling your belly button in towards your spine as if you were walking into a cold pool. If you only remember one of these shoveling tips, remember this one: If you need to throw the snow in the opposite direction you’re facing, turn by moving your feet, don't twist your back (twisting is when most shoveling injuries occur)! Also when lifting your shovel, try to hold the shovel closer to your body instead of reaching out in front of yourself. Next we’re going to use some brain power too--- when shoveling try to switch between being right hand and left hand dominant so both sides of your body get an equal workout. You can even change the grip on the hand holding the lower part of the shovel by having your palm under or palm over.
While shoveling, take your time and take breaks to rest and drink some water. Get a good workout but don’t push yourself too far. Know your limits-- if it’s too much, find someone to help. If you start experiencing chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or left-sided arm pain stop immediately and seek medical attention.
Dr. Doug and Jeanette love teaching people about health and wellness. If we haven't covered a topic that you're interested in, feel free to leave a comment and we'd be happy to give you our thoughts!