This has been a winter not too many people will forget any time soon. When we’re old-timers we can talk wistfully of the storms we’ve encountered. Our kids will remember this as the winter when the snow was up to their chest. But for right now, it’s less a winter wonderland and more of a frustrating burden. One small part of this burden is snow removal. Shoveling injuries are one of the most common injuries that crop up after a snowstorm. With a little forethought and patience, you could save yourself some pain.
Think of it as exercising. If you’re snowbound, then it may be the only cardio you’re due to get for a few days, so treat it as such. Get some blood flowing by marching in place, jumping jacks, etc. After about five minutes your muscles will be primed. Now you can start stretching. Focus on the lower back and hamstrings, which will help with the actual lifting. Limbering up the arms by doing big circles for about a minute will get the blood flowing all the way to the fingertips. Also, make sure you are properly hydrated. That will make it easier for the heart to pump blood through your muscles. Finally, layer up your clothing to keep in the heat.
Choose Your Weapon
Now if you had a snow blower or had a plow service, you wouldn’t have read this far, so let’s assume shovels are your available “weapon” you’ll be using to attack the snow. The ergonomic shovels with the curved handles take a bit of pressure off the knees since you won’t have to bend down so low. The straight handle shovels will certainly get the job done, you will just have to work harder.
Now you are face to face with old man winter. Here is the proper technique:
- Face your target. Have your chest and hips squared up to the pile you are lifting
- Bend at the hips, not the lower back, keeping the chest pushed forward
- Then bend knees and lift with your legs
- Don’t lift too much. Remember, small bites. If you must take a big scoop, make sure your hand is as far down as it can go for leverage
- Pivot your whole body to where you want the snow to go. Don’t twist your back
- Walk to the new location and twist the shovel to let the snow drop. No throwing snow!
Easy Does It
Small frequent episodes of snow removal are preferable than a marathon event. Make sure you take breaks every 15-20 minutes. If there is ice, make sure to throw down some salt or kitty litter for traction. Speaking of traction, good boots with sturdy tread will cut down on your chance of slipping.
Even with perfect form, you may still encounter soreness or stiffness. This could be due to age, fitness level, preexisting conditions, or any number of other factors. If you do find yourself in discomfort after shoveling, making an appointment with a chiropractor can help limit the damage done, and get you ready for the next storm.
Remember: make sure to rehydrate before your treat yourself to hot cocoa. Following these tips will make your snow day more pleasurable.