Snow Shoveling Tips to Keep You Off the Shelf
By Dr. Molly Casey
Shoveling snow. Many can’t get around it. Most have to get through it. No matter how many winters go by and how many times as a chiropractor I have this conversation with patients, it is never enough. To make it through the next snow shoveling season with the healthiest spine and the least amount of impact and injuries, there are some basics worth remembering.
One of the most common reasons injuries are sustained during the snow shoveling season is people head right out into the elements and start moving snow as if they, on a regular basis, have a consistently active lifestyle. But when people don’t work out regularly or move around quite a bit, they are inviting trouble without warming up. Shoveling snow is a physical activity. It’s not wise to go to the gym and start squatting with 75 pounds on a barbell and going for a five-mile run on Day 1 of a workout routine. It just isn’t.
Realize and own your true activity level prior to heading outside. And then warm up your body to physical activity that is proportionate to your level of health and activity. This should be ingrained is in your mindset, as well as the concept of stretching and moving your muscles. And in regard to the physical part before you go outside, do five to seven minutes of movement such as air squats, spine twists, jumping jacks, and hamstring stretches.
- Air squats - With no weight, squat down so that the butt comes as close to your heels as possible and stand back up.
- Spine twists - In a standing position, keep your feet rooted and hips still, while turning your spine right to left repeatedly while also swinging your arms.
- Jumping jacks - Remember those from being a kid? Nothing about them has changed.
- Hamstring stretches - Look at this video here for three different options -- standing, kneeling, and seated stretches. Standing, you’ll put one leg in front of you, dig the heel into the floor, raise your toes and lean forward from the hips. Kneeling, you’ll be on one knee with the other leg outstretched and the heel dug into the ground and toes toward the ceiling; lean forward from the hips, back as straight as possible.
- Seated, legs open and in a V shape. Lean forward from the hips, bringing the chest down toward the floor; you can also go to the side leaning over the right and then the left leg.
Another common mistake I see is working too hard for too long. Even if you do have a regular exercise routine, many folks don’t have the endurance and strength to properly carry out a two-hour event. Patients will often come into the office saying that they shoveled for 60, 90 or 120 minutes -- or beyond. Engaging in physical events for this length of time takes proper training, but most don’t do it for snow shoveling. Take a five- to 10-minute break every 20 to 30 minutes; I suggest not going past 75 minutes at a clip -- and that’s if you’re active and healthy.
The spinal discs are under the greatest amount of pressure when the spine is bent and twisted. This is regardless of weight being lifted or not -- think vacuuming and leaning over the sink to do dishes turning to the side to put dishes on to the drying rack. Now, add the weight of snow to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster and injury.
Move properly. Bend your knees, turn fully/square off to the area from which you are grabbing the snow, lift with power from your legs, and then turn to the area where you are moving the snow and drop.
Make sure your spine is moving optimally by getting regular chiropractic adjustments before and after the snow removal extravaganza. Proper spinal movement facilitates proper brain/body communication and supports full proper joint and body range of motion, ultimately helping you move better and more efficiently.
Of course, the easiest solution of all is -- when you can --- hire out the job! For many it’ll save their spine and health in the long run, and you can leave it to the experts or those who are more physically capable of doing it.
Come into The Joint Chiropractic to let doctors get you adjusted and give further instruction on your snow shoveling technique. You’ll be primed and ready for the season ahead.
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