Winter has come and the snow is falling all around! That’s great for snowball fights, but it’s less exciting for the health of your back. Yes, you guessed it… all that fluffy white cotton wool means it’s time to get shoveling. What a pain in the neck, right? Early mornings, freezing temperatures, and a workout you’d rather not face. Yes, we know it’s a slog getting the snow off of your driveway, but we also want to tell you that it doesn’t have to mean your summer is plagued by back pain, neck issues, or frozen shoulders. There is a way around the negative effects of shoveling, we promise! In fact, there doesn’t need to be any if you take our advice. Start your engines because it’s time to dig into to some must-have shoveling tips, advice, and general information. On with the gloves!
For most of you reading this, shoveling might not be your day job. In fact, you rarely see the shovel unless you feel a bout of gardening fever coming on – are we right? In fact, it’s such a rare activity that that shoveling is a single yearly event, if that. For those of you who are from Alaska, Vermont, or Maine… apologies. For the rest of us, though, due to the infrequency of snow shoveling, we hardly ever think of posture, technique, or warm ups. Unfortunately, these are precisely the things we need to think about before digging in! Shoveling snow is a bit like lifting weights and swinging them around: if you don’t know how to lift correctly, don’t know how to deadlift, and don’t know how to set the weight down properly, well, you’re going to injure yourself. So, shoveling well – using the right technique and applying the correct posture – is the key to preserving the health of your muscles, spine, and joints.
You’re not sure how to do all that? Well, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here are a few things to do before and during your morning shovel:
- Warm up: stretch properly before heading out. Ensure that your muscles are warm and flexible, thereby avoiding sprains, tears, or worse.
- Stance: once you’re warmed up, it’s time to look at your stance. Your body weight needs to be evenly distributed through your legs, with the weight of the snow upon the shovel placed on the legs rather than on the back – this is extremely important. Bend your legs slightly for more control.
- Arms: position your arms in such a way that they do not swing too far away from your torso. The further away from your stomach and chest your arms swing, the more pressure you place on your spine. Remember, try to shift the weight to your legs rather than your back.
- Back: make sure your back is mobile and warmed up; shovel through your arms and into your legs – try not to place the wright of the snow onto your lower back. This takes some practice but, with proper execution, it will make all the difference.
- Warm down: always stretch out and warm down after shoveling. Try to regard shoveling as a bit of a workout, thus make sure you do the warm up and warm down routines effectively.
Apart from the above tips and technique reminders, there are additional ways of making shoveling safe and pain free. Take a look:
Type of Shovel: We bet you’ve never thought about this, have you? The type of shovel you have can actually seriously impact the stress placed on your back and body, overall. So, choose wisely: aim for a less heavy shovel, that is, for a plastic one over a steel one. Also, use a snow pusher instead of a snow shovel if you have the option, as pushers are less heavy and easier to hold.
Epsom Salt Bath: The journey doesn’t end once the drive is cleared of snow… make sure you take a warm Epsom salt bath once you’re done in order to relax your muscles and joints. Doing this will allow your body to recuperate in preparation of your next session tomorrow!
Heat and Ice: If you feel as though you strained your muscles and joints after shoveling, be sure to apply either ice or heat to the area. Use a heat pad or ice pack in order to help relax the area in pain. Be sure to apply neither for more than 10 minutes at a time, and try to give yourself 5 minutes in between each application.
Listen to your Body: make sure you take the time to notice changes in your body while you shovel. Our bodies have very sophisticated ways of letting us know if things aren’t quite right… make sure you listen. If you feel aches, pain, or discomfort at any point, stop and reassess the situation. Is it your posture, your shovel, or have you simply been doing it for too long? Know when to stop and rest – it could make all the difference.
At the end of the day, shoveling is actually a lot more complicated than you first thought, right? It involves a lot of posture work and it certainly needs you to be aware of your movements and mobility. Luckily, there is an easier – and a lot more effective – way of accomplishing this than painstakingly watching hundreds of YouTube videos… it’s called physical therapy! We’re guessing you had no idea physical therapy could help with shoveling, but the great news is it can! Whether you’re dealing with back pain from last winter’s shoveling adventures, or you’re just keen to avoid experiencing it after the upcoming ones, we invite you to speak to one of our professional, hands-on, dedicated physical therapists, today. Physical therapy gives you the techniques, tools, and help to conquer posture, strengthen muscles, and avoid injury. It also cures the root cause of existing back problems, thereby permanently eradicating pain. Don’t get stuck in a rut this winter – get physical therapy today.
We know that shoveling can be laborious and, generally, painful. It doesn’t have to be that way, though: we invite you to call us, right now, for more information on how our excellent physical therapists can help you conquer winter and leave you feeling pain free, stronger, and more mobile than ever before. Let us shovel away the pain while you shovel away the snow with ease!