This time of year we could be GARDENING one day, and digging out of a snowstorm the next! In order to keep your back healthy during this Spring, remember these tips:
5 TIPS TO AVOID SNOW SHOVELING INJURY
Here are a few, simple tips to shoveling snow properly and avoiding injury:
1. STRETCH BEFOREHAND
Shoveling snow is an exercise, a lift, and a movement that requires the body to utilize and activate certain muscles, so treat it that way! If you were getting ready to go on a run, or were preparing for your chest day at the gym, you would warm up and stretch those muscles properly before because that’s what you’ve been taught to do. 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 different 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 harsh task and requires strenuous amounts of effort to complete over a long period of time. Be a personal judge of the shape your 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: Stay hydrated. 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.
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 can help back and neck strains heal properly.
Here are some tips to help you have a relaxing, enjoyable, and pain-free GARDENING season:
- Warm Up and Stretch: As with any form of exercise, stretching must be done before and after the activity. Take a short brisk walk first to warm up your muscles and get your body in work mode. Stretching should target your back and core, shoulders and arms, and leg muscles.
- Minimize Repetitive Motions: Don’t try to get everything done in one session. Alternating tasks is a good way to break up the repetitive motions.
- Digging: Make sure you keep the shovel in front of you and avoid twisting motions. If you need to get to an area on the side, re-position yourself to keep the shovel in line with your body. The same goes for raking – pull the rake towards your body, not off to the sides.
- Kneel, Don’t Bend: Use a kneeling pad to protect your knees. Make sure you actually use the pad and don’t do the work while bending. When you bend for a prolonged time, the ligaments in your back are overstretched. To avoid this from happening, keep your back straight like a plank. If you have to bend down, hinge at your hips and keep your spine straight.
- Lifting: If you are transporting heavy pots or planters, use a wheelbarrow. When you are lifting to put them in the wheelbarrow, make sure to get the power from your legs instead of your back and never twist while holding heavy objects.
- Rest and Hydration: Make sure you take breaks to stand up straight and stretch about every 15-30 minutes. Bring a water bottle outside with you to stay hydrated, especially on warmer days.
- Prevention: If you find that you are still feeling sore or stiff, it is time to consider Chiropractic care. Often times, it doesn’t matter how much you warm up and stretch; if there is an underlying spinal problem, you will eventually feel the effects of it, which means it has already done some damage to your health. Don’t wait any longer!