Now that the cold weather looks like it’s finally here to stay, it’s a matter of time before that fluffy white stuff comes down on us in full force. As Canadians, we will soon be faced with the daunting task of snow shovelling – and we all know what hard work that can be. Despite the great cardiovascular exercise you get from performing the mandatory manual labour that comes along with a lovely Barrhaven winter, each year many individuals sustain injuries such as pulled and strained muscles from repetitive twisting and poor lifting. 

Active Health Institute’s Chiropractic and Physiotherapy team would like to provide you with a few tips to keep in mind as you get ready to tackle that mound of snow waiting for you at the end of your driveway, making sure you can actually enjoy the benefits of the exercise!

1. Use The Right Tools

  • A shovel you can hold comfortably in your hands while your knees are slightly bent at the beginning of your shovel stroke is the ideal tool.
  • Look for a medium to small sized blade on your shovel. Smaller blades help avoid the temptation to pick up a large pile of snow that may be too heavy for your body to handle and cause injury.
  • Shovels with ergonomic features or bent handles.

2. Proper Warm up & Rest Breaks

  • Take a brisk walk or march in place to warm up your body so you are not going into the activity (even more) cold.
  • Separate the job into small parts to prevent over-exertion.
  • Take frequent breaks and change your position to avoid sustained stressful postures on your back.

3. Proper lifting

  • Grip the shovel with your hands spaced far apart (8-12”) to increase your leverage.
  • Squat with your legs hip-width apart, knees bent and back straight. Don’t lift with your back, lift with your legs!
  • Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to help prevent twisting of the low back and possible injuries.

4. Watch out for Cardiac Distress

  • Warning signs of cardiac distress include: shortness of breath, chest and/or upper body discomfort, heart palpitations, and other symptoms such as anxiety, sudden extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness or light headedness. If you experience these symptoms while shovelling, seek medical attention immediately.

If you feel you may have suffered a shovelling injury, have a vulnerable back, or are suffering from an overuse injury, do not hesitate to call us at Active Health Institute for an injury assessment, hands on treatment and a specific exercise program to get you back in shape. Happy shovelling!