Love it or hate it, snow shoveling is part of living in southern Manitoba. However, snow shoveling is no easy task. Although necessary, it does come with a risk of injury. So, to save yourself from unnecessary pain – follow these simple dos and donts.
DO pick the right shovel!
We all come in different shapes and forms – so the shovel we use should be uniquely suited for individual use. When properly adjusted, your shovel should be in contact with the ground with only a slight bend in your knees and minimal bending through your back. The weight of the shovel can make a difference too. A shovel that is made of a durable plastic will be lighter than a metal one, putting less strain on your spine. Likewise, a smaller shovel blade may take you longer to accomplish the task, but it will ensure that you do not overload or overdo it.
DON’T go out cold!
Cold muscles and tissues are more likely to get hurt while doing any activity and snow shoveling is no different. Before heading outdoors, do a small warm-up to increase your circulation. Small movements such as marching on the spot, walking in place, opening / closing your arms in front of your chest, or even doing arm circles can help warm things up.
DO use proper body mechanics!
Remembering a few key points about proper body mechanics can go a long way towards minimizing risk while shoveling snow:
Bend at your hips and knees to utilize these stronger and more powerful muscles.
Face the snow you are intending to move with keeping your shoulders and hips square. This will reduce unnecessary rotation.
Push the snow - it is easier than lifting the snow.
If you do have to perform a lift, do not overload the shovel with snow; there is less strain in lifting smaller amounts with each step.
Keeping one hand near the handle and the other closer to the blade will improve leverage and improve your ability to maneuver the snow.
DON’T overdo it - pace yourself!
Clear snow in stages. Start by skimming snow from the top and then move towards the bottom layer. Or prioritize your most important sections. This will reduce the overall volume of snow needed to be moved at once. Remember the snow is not going anywhere too quickly so do take a break every 10 to 15 minutes or when you are feeling exhausted. Setting a timer can be a helpful trick.
DO listen to your body!
If you begin to feel pain while shoveling, it is time to stop. Pain can be the body’s way of telling you that something is not right and that it is time to take a break.
When it comes time for the flakes to fly, keep this advice in mind to keep yourself safe. If you have questions or concerns always remember to contact your local physiotherapist.