Many Canadian homeowners spend long hours shoveling snow this time of year, but too much twisting, bending and lifting can place excessive loading on the spine, resulting in back strain or more serious injuries. The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) recommends using good posture and body mechanics as well as adopting a good technique for shoveling. It is also helpful to do warm-up exercises for the larger muscle groups such as the shoulders, back and the legs (before and after) any type of yard work.
The following recommendations by the Canadian Physiotherapy Association will help minimize the risk of strains and sore muscles:
· Hold the shovel handle close to your body to help maintain good posture while shoveling. Keep one hand near the top for better leverage and use your arms and legs more than your spine. Ergonomic shovels,have bent or side handles for less strain on the hands and wrists. This design ensures that the elbows are bent slightly and also encourages good posture.
· Change sides frequently and avoid twisting from the waist. Place one foot ahead of the other which allows you to shift forward and backward easily as you rake.
· Pace yourself. Section off larger jobs so you can complete it in stages rather than all at once.
· Take frequent breaks.
· When lifting, tense your stomach muscles to give your back additional support and keep the shovel close to the body. Keep your back straight while lifting with the legs.
· Be proactive with the core of your spine – stay fit, stay healthy and engage in regular exercise so that winter clean-up won’t take as much of a toll. However if you do have limiting back pain, ask family or
neighbor to help, or if possible hire someone to do it for you.
· If you have a heart condition or other medical concerns, consult your physician before shoveling.
· Active exercises such as gentle, progressive stretching of muscles may help relieve muscle stiffness and soreness.
· If soreness persists for a couple of days, consult your physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists are regulated health care professionals who have the knowledge and skills to help relieve pain, increase mobility, build strength, and improve balance and cardiovascular function. A physiotherapist will assess your injury and provide appropriate treatment to help get you back up to speed as well as give advice on how to prevent recurrence of injury.