The snow keeps falling here in beautiful Colorado! In order to keep your back healthy during this Winter, be sure to follow these tips.
1. STRETCH BEFOREHAND
Shoveling snow is an aerobic exercise. It is important to stretch your leg and arm muscles, as well as your back and neck beforehand and afterwards. Stretching will decrease the chance of injuring your muscles. It’s similar to getting ready to go on a run or preparing to lift weights at the gym. Warming up and stretching your muscles properly is very important. Snow shoveling should be treated exactly the same way.
2. DRESS PROPERLY
One of the most common illnesses this time of the year is colds, runny noses, sore throats, and other ailments from exposure to colder temperatures. You are going from warm to cold, and vice versa, so make sure you error on the over-dressed side when preparing to snow shovel. Not only does this prevent illness, but it is also important to keep your muscles warm and loose when exercising.
3. KNOW YOUR PERSONAL LIMITS
Snow Shoveling is a physically demanding task and requires strenuous amounts of effort to complete over a long period of time. Be a personal judge of the shape you are in, and take breaks accordingly. If you were going on your first run in 6 months, you wouldn’t try and race a half marathon, and shoveling should be treated the same way. Your body will thank you! (Side Tip: Be sure to stay hydrated…..you will be much less sore afterwards. We know its cold, but your body still needs fluids to compensate for the sweat and muscle exhaustion.)
4. USE PROPER TECHNIQUE AND PREPARATION
You want to make sure you are efficient when snow shoveling. Make sure your shovel is long enough for you, so you aren’t bent over too far to compensate. Bend at the hips and knees, not at the back. This will take stress off your lower back, preventing injury. If you’re going to lift the snow, grip with one hand as close to the blade as you can while remaining comfortable. This will evenly distribute the weight and lessen your effort. Additionally, try to avoid reaching, twisting, and throwing. It is much better to walk the lifted snow to the desired place than launching it like an Olympic field athlete. Protect your body. It is also very important to shovel snow equally on both sides….don’t just shovel to one side because you will overuse the muscles on that side and more likely straining your back and neck.
5. LOOK INTO A SNOW BLOWER
If it is possible to use a snow blower, do so. This is a very good investment for your time and your health. When you use one correctly, you can avoid stress on the lower back and also speed up the process. It is still important to remember to bend at the knees and hips with one of these machines though, and try to focus on driving with your legs rather than your upper body.
6. (BONUS TIP!) REST & SEEK THERAPY IF INJURED
If you begin to experience back pain or any other injury while snow shoveling, remember not to ignore it. The more strain and use you place on your injury, the more damage can be done. Chiropractic adjustments, heat therapy/ electric muscle stimulation, cupping, and acupuncture can help back and neck strains heal properly.