Protecting your Back when Shoveling


Calgary received a (mostly unwelcome) blast of winter on October 2nd this year. It is said it was the most snow in 60+ years. As Calgary has before, we rallied and as I look out my window right now, main roads are mostly dry, the bright sun has melted a ton of it already and it actually is quite pretty.

If you are one of the unlucky one’s needing to shovel through the piles of snow, you already know how much work it can be. I’ve written other blogs on shoveling safety in the past so for this quick note, I wanted to make a few key highlights as a reminder to keep your back safe throughout this upcoming season.

  • Treat shoveling like a sport. Ok you may need to use your imagination for this if you’re trying to find the “fun” in this…and by no means am I implying it should be a race. What I mean is to ensure you are warmed up. Gentle twists side to side, lunges, side bends, should all feel ok and will help to warm-up your tissues that you are going to call upon to help you.

  • Wear adequate footwear. If your shoes do not have much grip, a lot of your muscle use and energy will be directed to keep you upright. You will be more tense and more prone for injury when you add shoveling to the mix. You want to be warm and relaxed to set you up for success.

  • I know its cold out and often a job you want to get over-with, but shoveling smaller amounts at a time (both in terms of area and how much snow is on your shovel) will reduce the load over time.

  • Often we will lunge with our dominant leg which means we are twisting to the same side with every shovel. Try to be mindful of switching what leg is stepping forward so you get twists to both sides

  • If you have back pain or prone to back issues, ask for help. If your neighbour is elderly or injured, offer to help. Sometimes the damage that we incur isn’t from the one event/ snow fall but the cumulative micro traumas effect over the course of the season. If you have the means, paying a company or neighbour to maintain your sidewalks may be worth it!

The healthier your spine and body is now, will have a huge effect on how resilient you are to all the unexpected events that can come with winter sports, shoveling, slips or falls. Of course if the unfortunate does happen, get checked by your Chiropractor!

Gratitude, Lessons and Perspective

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

On Christmas Eve I fell. Picture it. Dressed up like Santa's elf (for was for charity, ok?) I pretty much was airborne and slid down a paved pathway. Scraped up, I dusted myself off, applied some bandaids and got back to business. As the day went on though my wrist became more and more sore and less and less mobile. I went to urgent care that evening, got an x-ray and although it wasn't believed to be fractured, sometimes breaks aren't visible right away. So off they sent me (Dr. Tom...amazing Doc! Felt so well taken care of) with a half cast to return in 2 weeks time for a re-exam. 

That was yesterday. Luckily, x-rays were negative and it ended up being a bruised bone (as confirmed by Carla the awesome physio I saw at Lifemark). Let me tell you though, this has been more painful than any other injury I've had. It has highlighted a few things for me though and something so crucial for any practitioner to really grasp. The physical pain of an injury is only a fraction of the issue. Sure, it is sore and limits me. I can't do yoga, haven't been able to swim, and washing my hair or putting on my shoes takes me a little bit longer than it should. The emotion that accompanied the sprain however was the unexpected sucker punch. 

Frustration for being slowed down and somewhat limited at work. Compounded by the fact that I didn't have access to my (usual) mental outlets of yoga or swimming. (Once confirmed it was a bone bruise not a sprain/ strain I was given the ok to swim again though so yay!)

Fear that my wrist would heal with residual limitations or if there would be any long-term impact on my work as a Chiropractor, or with activities I enjoy for fun, and how long I would have to compensate and be limited.

Fatigue from now having more appointments to accomodate and for the extra effort it is taking to do virtually everything.

All of this for an injured wrist when so many others (many of whom I see right in my office) are facing far more debilitating or challenging circumstances. So I take this time to reflect on some lessons in all of this.

  •  To say to my current and future practice members "I hear you". I recognize the emotion behind the injury (which will be different for everyone). I understand how powerful it can be to know what to expect, to have an idea of how long you will be limited, and all the things you can do to make your recovery the fasted and most effective. 
  • Logically I know this will heal. I am committed to doing everything I can to maximize that. Luckily I have a network of Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and Acupuncturists to see, all of whom offer some pretty incredible skillsets to enhance my healing. There are some aspects out of my control, but I can control the steps I take to be well again. 
  • Patience. Healing takes time. I smile because I say this often but also SO understand why that can be an annoying comment to someone in pain. The truth is though that there are things you can do to facilitate healing but at the end of the day, tissues take time to heal. 
  • Gratitude that this occurred over christmas week...and the coldest week of the year. A week where I could rest and recuperate and not add more stress to my wrist. 
  • Gratitude that it was my left wrist and not my right. I can still work. My 2018 intention was simplicity so maybe this was kickstarting me towards more of that. 
  • The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were nuts for me. Covering other practices, working on growing my own practice, continuing ed, social engagements, volunteering...all things I happily said yes to, but were starting to take a toll. The universe works in mysterious ways, but if we don't get the subtle nudges, the signs will become louder and this injury was a less than subtle push to slow down. To make time for self care. To ask for help (and take it). To recognize the community of support we always have if we open our eyes. I strongly believe (yet sometimes need a reminder) that there is duality in all events. There is no event that is exceedingly great without some challenge or contrast just as no unfortunate circumstance is without growth and benefit. 

And that's all I have to say about that. An entry for to reflect on when my frustration gets the better of me, or when things feel hard. And hopefully some perspective and value for anyone choosing to read this.