Well, winter is upon us and with winter comes snow. I am personally not a huge fan of winter. Part of my distaste for this time of year comes from the golfer in me. (It's really hard to play in the snow.) The other part is due to the copious amount of shoveling that we all have to do over these next three months.
Last year was a blessing, but I've heard that this season is going to be a complete turnaround with inches upon inches of that fluffy white stuff. It's important to protect yourself while you are shoveling. Every year I treat multiple patients for back strains, hamstring pulls and shoulder injuries due to shoveling. I don't want that to be you, so here are some tips on how to shovel properly and save yourself from injury.
1. Don't lift with your back. We've all heard it, but what does that mean? When it comes to lifting objects we want to use our big muscles in our hips, not our small muscles in our back. The muscles that line our spine are meant to stabilize the spinal segments, not lift heavy objects.
When you use your shovel, bend at your knees to lift the scoop. Do not keep your legs straight and lift with your back and upper body. Bonus tip – when you squat down don't let your knees pass in front of your toes. That can strain the knees.
2. Step, don't twist. If you are shoveling in one direction and tossing it in another don't twist to toss the snow. This causes you to rotate your spine which can strain the back. Most of us don't have adequate thoracic rotation and hip flexibility. That means when you twist, you are twisting your low back. Well, it doesn't like that and can lead to muscle and joint strains which will lead to pain. Instead, load up your shovel, step and turn your whole body and then toss the snow.
3. Switch hands. If you have a long driveway, long sidewalk or both, you are going to be shoveling for a long time. Keeping your hands in the same spot leads to repetitive use of the shoulders. This can lead to a strain in the upper body. Instead switch your hands after every 10 scoops. This will make sure that you are using your arms equally and will decrease the likely hood of injuring yourself.
4. Buy a snow blower, hire someone, have a kid. These will all decrease the amount of shoveling that you have to do. Well, the kid eventually, until they become a teenager and then forget about it.
I hope this helps to keep you healthy during this winter season. One last tip. If you have any heart conditions, high cholesterol or other medical condition please be cautious with shoveling. The incidence of heart attack and stroke are very real during shoveling. If you do have health conditions, please monitor your heart rate while shoveling and take frequent breaks. If you have any questions please contact me. Have a Happy New Year everyone!
"Live Pain Free"