Now that the season of snow is upon us, the task of snow shovelling brings many patients hobbling into the chiropractor’s office.
Snow shovelling, like any other strenuous activity, is one that requires some preparation to avoid injury. The first step in this preparation is to warm up and stretch out, particularly your lower back and legs. A good fifteen minutes of stretching and warming up is best. Each stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds.
Secondly, you should be adequately dressed. Lightweight clothing should be worn in layers. Don’t depend on the activity of shovelling to keep you warm. Getting a chill will cause muscles to tighten up and can lead to muscle strain injuries.
Third, use proper equipment. Snow shovels are wide, scoop-shaped and made of light materials. This allows you to move large quantities of snow with relatively little effort. Garden shovels are smaller, narrower and heavier and are meant for digging in soil, not for lifting large mounts of snow.
As you begin to shovel, try bending at the knees and minimize bending of the back. This will automatically engage the more powerful leg muscles and spare your more vulnerable back muscles. Switch sides periodically so that one side doesn’t get overworked. When you lift a shovelful of snow, turn your whole body to throw it to the side. Keeping your legs stationery and twisting your back is a sure way of causing injury to your back. Should you experience any back discomfort while shovelling, stop and rest. If it doesn’t subside, discontinue shovelling until the problem is treated.
When you’re finished, stretch out again as you cool down. This is a wise idea following any strenuous activity, especially something as sporadic as shovelling snow.
Last, but not least, visit your chiropractor, preferably before shovelling snow if possible. Making sure your spine is moving properly and in good alignment is the best way to prevent injuries. Ask for a good stretch routine for before and after shovelling.
Taking the proper preventive care of your back will make snow shovelling a less arduous task and leave you in better shape for the more enjoyable activities that winter brings!