Let it snow…let it snow…let it snow. It’s that time of year again when many of us are outside clearing snow. We’ve already had some incredible snowstorms in many regions of North America and the sheer volume of snow to remove often results in back and neck pain. Whenever we are bending and twisting while lifting heavy snow, we need to be extremely careful. Bending and twisting with a load increases the mechanical stress on spinal muscles, ligaments, joints and discs. Combine that with the exertion of throwing the snow off of the shovel and we put our back under a lot of pressure that can lead to debilitating pain. The Ontario Chiropractic Association (OCA) suggests before you start removing the white stuff:
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in the winter months as it is in the summer.
- Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as you get warm.
- Wear proper footwear. Shoes and boots with solid treads on the soles can help to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
- Pick the right shovel. Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body. An ergonomically correct model (curved handle) will help prevent injury and fatigue. Also, if you spray the blade with a silicone-based lubricant, the snow will slide off more easily.
- Warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning any snow removal to get your joints moving and increase blood circulation. A brisk walk will do it.
- Push don’t throw. Push the snow to one side and avoid throwing it. If you must throw it, avoid twisting and turning — position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile.
- Bend your knees. Use your knees, leg and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.
- Watch for ice. Be careful on icy walkways and slippery surfaces. Intermittent thaws and subsequent freezing can lead to ice building up underfoot, resulting in nasty slips and falls. Throwdown some salt or sand to ensure you have a good footing.