Toronto has had a pretty light December so far, but the meteorologists are predicting that we’ll be back to fluffy white landscapes soon—which means we’ll also be back behind the shovel, clearing off our driveways. To make sure you’re ready for it when it does, we’re giving you a chiropractic care professional’s tips on shovel safety.
Shovelling is a major cause of winter-season injuries
The act of shovelling places significant strain on your entire body. While this can make it effective exercise, the constant pace and the weight of acumulated snow can potentially strain joints, pull muscles, and even cause cardiovascular (heart and circulatory) problems.
The shovelling-related injury that chiropractors most often see are injuries to the L5-S1 disc, located in the lower back. Strains, swelling, and minor injuries to the L5 nerves can cause poor circulation and cramping in the legs, even if the surrounding muscle tissue isn’t strained.
Shovel smart, shovel healthy.
Because shovelling is such an intense exercise, there are a number of ways that you can ease the strain on your system:
Choose your weapon…
Choosing the right shovel for your level of fitness is key in staying healthy. Shovels with metal blades can be significantly heavier, and lifting them can place unnecessary strain on your back. While a little extra weight can be useful to break up ice, salt can accomplish the same task with no strain at all.
Shovels with curved handles are designed to keep your back straight, improving your posture and removing some of the lower back strain.
If lifting is an issue, there are shovels that are designed to not be lifted at all. It’s far easier to push snow than to lift it, and, while it might not clear as wide a path, a pushing shovel is considerably easier to operate.
You should make sure that you’re warmed up and stretched before any physically demanding task. Do a couple of stretches, or even some light warm-up exercises. Fitness Blender has a thorough five-minute full-body stretch/warm-up to help loosen you up.
Proper dress is absolutely necessary while shovelling, for both comfort and safety. Bundling up will keep you warm while avoiding frostbite in extreme temperatures, and proper winter boots with a good tread can help prevent slip and fall injuries.
The most important shovel safety tip is, don’t push it. If you feel chest pain, muscle ache, or back pain, stop immediately. If the pain is more than just an ache, or if it persists for more than a few minutes, consult a healthcare professional.
While shovelling, make sure you use proper shovelling technique. Keep your hands apart, lift with your legs and shoulders, and don’t twist your back to throw snow to the side–simply use your arms and legs to lift the snow over the bank and dump it out with a turn of the wrist.
It’s also a good idea to shovel regularly; the longer the snow has to build up, the more strain it will be to remove.
Approach winter with a healthy spine
An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure in the winter. Regular ‘tune-up’ adjustments for your spine can keep you loose, limber, and healthy, reducing the likelihood of strain-related injury while improving circulation to help prevent heart issues.
Keep your back healthy this season. Book an appointment with your Toronto Chiropractic Care Professional today!