Don’t get snowed in! How to Shovel Snow and Prevent Snow Removal Injuries

With all the snow we had this past weekend (and all that’s surely still to come), many of you are probably best friends with your shovel. If you’re lucky enough to have teenagers to do it for you, pass this on to some of your less fortunate friends. Those of us who are stuck  shovelling, huffing, and anticipating a hot cuppa afterwards often think of snow removal as just another of the joys winter brings, but in all seriousness, it can actually be dangerous! Every winter people are injured while shovelling or using a snow blower, so heed these tips to make sure you aren’t one of them:

Look out: watch out for icy patches or uneven ground, since a fall could be worse than just having to shovel a bit of snow. Make sure to keep scarves and hats from blocking your vision, you need to watch where your shovel or blower is going too.

Warm-up: warm up with some light exercise inside for 10 minutes before you go exercise by moving snow outside. Once you’re back inside warm up again with a nice hot drink.

Pace yourself: just like any other exercise, be sure to take breaks when you need them, and don’t get dehydrated. You don’t feel as thirsty when it’s cold, but you need to stay hydrated all the same. If you’ve gone at it too hard and experience chest pain, shortness of breath of other signs that  indicate a heart attack be sure to stop immediately and call 9-1-1.

Pace your blower: snowblowers can help make quick work out of clearing a driveway, but if used improperly could leave you with a back injury. They are designed to move at a particular speed, so don’t be trying to force your blower to go faster – it’s already doing the work for you!

Pick your weapon wisely: if using a shovel make sure to pick one that is comfortable for your height and strength. Using a shovel that is too heavy, too long, or even too short is not only asking for injury but also makes shovelling less efficient.

Just don’t do it: if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, make sure to check in with your doctor before braving all that white stuff. Snow removal places high stress on the heart, and you might be better off hiring someone to remove the snow for you.

How to shovel snow without injury:

  1. Push the snow, instead of lifting it, as much as possible
  2. If you need to lift the snow, lift with your legs by squatting with your back straight; don’t bend at the waist
  3. Only scoop small amounts of snow at a time, and remove deep snow in pieces: holding a heavy shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts strain on your spine
  4. Walk the snow over to where you want it, do not throw it over your shoulder to avoid twisting your back.
That’s it! We might not be able to make it fun, but with these tips and snow removal should be easy and injury free. If you’ve already hurt yourself dealing with snow this winter, be sure to give any of our clinics a call. Our physiotherapists would be happy to assess the injury and help get you back to pain free!
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