Winter Wellness Tips and Shoveling Snow

Winter Wellness Tips and Shoveling Snow

Most people understand that physiotherapy helps in the treatment of injuries, but did you know that we can also help with injury prevention. Even a single visit with your therapist may help you prevent an injury. This becomes even more important during the winter/holiday months when we have wet and slippery surfaces to deal with. Maintaining and improving balance and stability, especially for seniors is an important part physical therapy and wellness.

Shoveling snow is hard work! Shoveling can place severe stress on your heart, and cause stress and strain on your body. Every year people sustain back and knee injuries as well as pulled and strained muscles from repetitive twisting and improper lifting. However, we can stay injury free and still enjoy cardiovascular benefits from snow shovelling if we prepare themselves and listen to our bodies.

Shoveling is made even more difficult by the weather. Cold air makes it harder to work and breathe, which adds extra strain on the body. Cold, tight muscles are more likely to strain than warm, relaxed muscles. Take time to stretch and prepare your body for activity with a simple warm-up before shovelling, and wear warm clothing

Choose a shovel that’s right for you:

  • A shovel’s handle is the appropriate length when you can slightly bend your knees, and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the shovel stroke.
  • A bent-handled shovel can reduce bending compared to a traditional straight-handled shovel.
  • A shovel blade that is made of plastic will be lighter than a metal one, putting less strain on your spine.
  • A smaller blade may be better than a larger one because it avoids the temptation to pick up a pile of snow that is too heavy for your body to carry.

Use proper techniques:

  • Grip the shovel with your hands at least 12 inches apart, and keep one hand close to the base of the shovel. Positioning your hands further apart will help increase your leverage.
  • Squat with your legs hip-width apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist.
  • Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Keep the load as close to your body as possible. Holding a shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts undue strain and compression on your spine.
  • Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow. This will help prevent twisting of the low back and ‘next-day back fatigue’ experienced by many shovellers.

Take frequent breaks, and separate the job into smaller stages to prevent overexertion. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to bring your spine back to a neutral position. You can also do standing extension exercises by placing your hands in the small of your back, bending slightly backwards, holding the position for several seconds, and repeating this movement 5 to 10 times.

Always take notice of any symptoms of back pain or repetitive strain, and be especially aware of any warning signs of cardiac distress including shortness of breath, chest and/or upper body pain or discomfort, palpitations, and other symptoms such as anxiety, sudden extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness.

If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us!

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