With the first snowfall, it officially means that winter is here! Snow is accompanied by school closings, snowmen, sledding, and hot cocoa. It also brings the dreaded shoveling, which can bring on back pain and risk of injury.

Our goal is to help you prevent injury. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to reduce injury while shoveling snow.

Do: Warm Up and Stretch

  • March in place until you begin to break a light sweat, 1-2 minutes
  • 5-10 neck rolls: gently roll your head in all directions
  • Ten push ups to warm up your shoulders and chest
  • Hamstring stretches: brief hold, 3-5 times each leg
  • Five squats or lunges with feet shoulder width apart
  • Five standing gentle back bends: slowly tilt backward with your hands on your hips

Cold muscles can be more susceptible to injury so warming up may be especially important in the winter

Don’t: Be macho. If you’re inactive or have a history of heart problems, hire someone to shovel the driveway for you – neighborhood kids are eager to get out make a little bit of money on their days off. It’s cheaper than a trip to the hospital.

Do: Use a correct shovel. Consider using a shovel with a smaller blade to lighten the load; this could also reduce the risk of spinal injury. Remember the blade is the part that actually shovels the snow. Also, try using a shovel with a non-stick surface. This will help to make shoveling less tiring because the snow will slide off easier.

Don’t: Delay to start. Fresh snow weighs far less than snow that has been sitting for a while. So you should think about shoveling the snow as soon as it has fallen. Waiting allows for the snow to compact and get wet, translates to becoming heavier or even worse turning into ice.

Do: Push The Snow. Pushing snow is far easier than lifting and can dramatically reduce the risk of injury. This can only be applied if the snow is not too deep.

Don’t: Lift The Snow. if it can be avoided. What you might not have known is that one shovelful of snow can weigh up to 20 pounds. But if you have to lift the snow, maintain good posture.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart for balance and bend at the knees rather than at the waist or back.
  • Keep the shovel close to your body rather than extending your arms all the way.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles and then lift with your legs as if you are doing a squat.
  • Switch off between snow shoveling right-handed and left-handed, so that you’re working different muscles.

When the snowfall is heavy, don’t try to clean right down to the ground with a single scoop. Instead, skim the top 6 inches off, and then scoop up the bottom 6 inches. If not, you could risk hurting yourself by lifting too much.

Do: Stretch again. This will assist your muscles from tightening back up and potentially causing you pain.

Don’t: Continue if you’re consistently injuring yourself. This might be due to your equipment or because you are rushing. Remember that shoveling is a form of weight lifting. Pace yourself and take regular breaks. But, if you have heavy enough snowfall consistently yearly, you might want to invest in a snow blower. Your body may thank you!

Do: Make sure your body has a sound foundation. Recent research from New Zealand has found that Chiropractic care may reduce gym and fitness-related (i.e. snow shoveling) injuries while also improving performance. According to Dr Heidi Haavik, Director of Research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic, the inability of some people to properly activate and control their core muscles when engaging in exercise, predisposes them to injury – particularly in the lower back. This may be reversible with regular chiropractic care. In other words, optimal structure = optimal function and performance.

Take note of the bolded do’s and don’ts BEFORE you head out to shovel to avoid having an injury slow you down this winter.


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