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Don't Throw Out Your Back Throwing Snow

After a warmer than usual December, winter has returned with a vengeance, and with it, shovelling.

snow covered tree

Winter is back with a vengeance!

For those of us who are already in decent physical shape and at low risk, dealing with that New Year’s dump of snow was a bonus workout to help burn off the holiday fat. Too often, however, we hear about people who have suffered heart attacks while trying to dig out. This is a very real health risk to individuals over a certain age and with certain risk factors.

But even those of us who may hit the gym regularly can injure ourselves with this demanding physical activity unless we take a few simple precautions.

According to the results of a 17-year study published by American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2011, heart-related problems make up only seven per cent of snow shoveling-related injuries that send people to the emergency room. (Of course, heart-related problems were the only cause of related fatalities.)
Muscle, ligament, tendon, and other soft tissue injuries, especially those of the lower back, were the most common in the study.

So how can you reduce your risk of back injury when under siege by the white stuff? Here are some tips drawn from the Ontario Chiropractic Association:

Before you start

  • Drink plenty of water. Hydration is just as important in winter as it is in summer. Keeping hydrated reduces muscles soreness and aids in recovery.
  • Wear proper footwear to reduce your risk of slips and falls, and watch for ice.
  • Take a brisk walk to warm up and get the blood flowing.
  • If muscles in your core or shoulders still feel stiff or tight, stretch them first.
  • Choose a lightweight shovel with a blade that is appropriate to your strength and fitness level – the bigger the blade, the heavier the load. An ergonomically correct model with a curved handle can also help prevent injury and fatigue.

While you’re at it

  • Try to avoid lifting and throwing the snow – just push it off to the side.
  • If you must throw, avoid twisting and turning your body. Position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight when pushing and lifting. You want to engage your leg, abdominal and arm muscles to share the load with your back.
  • Use salt or sand to add some grip to the slippery spots.

We can help

There you have it – the keys to a safe and pain-free winter without any unexpected emergency room visits.

Chiropractors may help you with many of the injuries that can result from your shovel getting the best of you. We would, however, prefer to see you in our clinic for preventative care to ensure your spine is healthy and aligned. So stay safe.

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