Although many people enjoy the winter months for the skiing, sledding, sleigh rides, and hot chocolate, not many of us enjoy shoveling the snow that falls onto our sidewalks and driveways. Thank goodness for the invention of the snow blower! But for those of us that do not have one of those handy devices, or choose not to haul it out when there are only a few inches of snow, there is a great chance of injury while clearing the snow away.
There are many strategies that can help decrease your chances of injury while shoveling snow.
- Avoid having caffeine or nicotine before shoveling. These are stimulants that can cause your blood vessels to constrict, putting more strain on your heart and delivering less blood to your muscles.
- Although it may sound very obvious, dress in layers. Don’t go outside in a T-shirt because you know that once you start shoveling your body will heat up. Dress warmly and take off layers as needed.
- Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth to avoid breathing cold air, and wear a hat to retain body heat.
- As with any workout, you must do a warm up first! The freezing temperatures outside can wreak havoc on joints and muscles, making them painful and sore. Although you may feel silly marching in place or doing jumping jacks in your front yard while it’s 10 degrees outside, your body will thank you. Warm muscles work more efficiently and are less prone to injury.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is always an issue, whether it is 10 degrees or 100 degrees outside.
Now that you know what to do to get ready to shovel snow, here are some tips to follow while getting the job done!
- Choose a shovel that is the right size for you. A smaller shovel may take more scoops, but a lighter load will be easier to lift and put less stress on your body.
- Try to push the snow straight ahead rather than lifting and throwing it.
- If lifting the snow, turn and step in the direction you are throwing. Avoid sudden turning and twisting motions, as this puts more pressure on the intervertebral discs in your spine.
- Walk to the place you are depositing snow rather than throwing it.
- Lift properly, bending your knees and lifting with your legs rather than your back. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart for balance and tighten your core as your lift to take stress off of your spine. Never bend at the waist! Try to keep your back as straight as possible!
- Take frequent breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury!
- Stop if you feel pain. You know your body best—listen to it!
- If you begin having chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing you should stop shoveling. You may need immediate professional help.
Although shoveling snow is a fantastic aerobic workout, there are some that are at increased risk of heart attack due to the increased stress put on the heart.
- Anyone who has already had a heart attack.
- Persons with a history of heart disease.
- Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Those who smoke.
- Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Anyone who meets the criteria above should check with their doctor before taking on the job of shoveling snow.
If you experience any soreness or pain after shoveling snow, apply ice to the area for 20 minutes and repeat every hour two to three times per day over the next few days. See your chiropractor if the pain persists, is sharp, shooting, or burning, or if you have tingling or numbness, as these could be signs of serious spinal injury.
Bellmore Village Chiropractic & Wellness is located at 110 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, NY 11710, (516) 809-9191,www.bellmorechiropractic.com