Shovelling lightly

By Dr. Stephen Konkle

Konkle, Stephen

With a good warm up, the right equipment and good technique, shovelling snow for a healthy adult can be a welcome Canadian winter ritual. Photo: Julie Houle Cezer

Most of us would agree that we dodged winter last year, but it is certainly back this year. With winter, we get fresh snow – one of the most beautiful and peaceful things to witness – but with it comes the burden of shovelling. When you consider that the average shovelful of snow weighs five pounds, the average driveway may hold hundreds of pounds of snow.

Before you grab your shovel, consider these tips to keep you injury-free.

Warm up

A tight, stiff body is a recipe for injury, so take a few minutes to warm up. Overall conditioning like walking and some warm-up exercises to get the blood flowing and the muscles loosened can save you a lot of pain later.

Use proper posture

Try to push the snow to the side rather than lifting heavy snow. When you do shovel, let your knees, hips and arm muscles do the heavy lifting, and avoid twisting your back.

Use the right type of shovel

Your shovel should be about chest height, allowing you to keep your back straight when lifting. A short handle forces you to bend more to lift the snow, while a too-tall shovel makes the weight heavier. Using a lightweight pusher-style shovel will help to protect your back.

Timing is everything

Frequent shovelling allows you to move smaller amounts of snow at a time, and fresh snow will be easier to move than packed snow. Try to shovel in the afternoon rather than the early morning, as many spinal disc injuries occur in the morning when there is increased pressure on the disc.

Take it slow: shovelling isn’t a competitive sport, so take your time and listen to your body. Take frequent rest breaks, and stop shovelling immediately if you feel chest or back pain.

Chiropractor Dr. Stephen Konkle can be reached at RE:FORM Body Clinic in the Byward Market or www.reformbodyclinic.ca.

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