Safe Shoveling: Preventing Injury

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As I write this I am looking out my office window and it appears to be more spring-like outside than late November. Alas, the snow has made an appearance and will again so it is important to protect our spines when taking on this sometimes arduous chore of shoveling.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association has 5 tips on shoveling safely this winter season. The Alberta Chiropractic Association and College also offers some highlights on shoveling techniques and even the type of shovel that can be more spine-safe.  In addition to these tips, I tell my practice members to treat shoveling like a workout (because it definitely can be as strenuous as one).

1. Warm up with movement (not static stretches) that mimic the motions needed for shoveling. Some air squats, hip circles and twists can be a gentle way to warm up the back and hips.

2. Breathe. Holding our breath upon inhale or exhale can offer some helpful bracing for the spine, however we want to be sure we are breathing as steady as possible. Often when people get lightheaded it is due to lack of oxygen to the brain so we want to ensure we have a steady flow of oxygen.

3. Hydrate. On a hot summer day it can be more intuitive to have some clean water on hand to rehydrate but when we are cold and bundled up we can forget this important step. The heavier we breathe, the more we sweat, the more water we lose. Maintaining adequate hydration will help keep our tissues healthy and resilient, and will help us recover faster from the exertion.

4. Move mindfully and stretch when complete (here is where static stretches should be used). Although it is tempting to just get all the shoveling over-with, be ok with taking breaks. We often injure ourselves when we are tired, so be mindful of using your legs when lifting, and moving mindfully instead of moving with momentum. The smallest of things can be what prevents injury this winter and allows you to keep moving. Static stretches are those we hold in one place for 30 or so seconds. Again, moving through spinal rotation, hips, neck and shoulders can help to reduce accumulated tension in the body and slow the heart rate down.

Look at shoveling as another opportunity to add movement to your day! Keep active this winter and stay safe. For further information on how to optimize your spinal health or in the event you are faced with an injury, contact me to schedule a consultation.