With the arrival of “the White Stuff” here in South East Idaho, we all begin the dreaded hunt for the snow shovel. Stored in a long forgotten corner of the garage it has been waiting since last…. probably June right??? Here at Ellis Chiropractic we would like to share some tips and tricks to save your back during the whole winter season.
Shoveling snow can be very stressful. The physical exertion of bending, lifting, and twisting, combined with the exposure to freezing weather conditions, can take a serious toll on the body and can cause painful muscle spasms, strains or tears if you’re not in shape, I know that i am definitely not in shape yet.
* Be prepared. Spray your shovel with Teflon so the snow will not stick to it. The more snow that stays on the shovel, the heavier it gets and the more chance for injury – and frustration.
* Do a warm-up first. A tight, stiff body is asking for injury. A few minutes of stretching can save you a lot of pain later. Jumping jacks work great for this, just make sure you aren’t doing them over some ice 😉
* Layer your clothing. Layered clothing will keep your muscles warm and flexible. You can shed a layer if you get too hot. Make sure you wear gloves that cover your wrists; if your wrists get cold, your fingers, hands and arms will be cold, too.
* Wear the right shoes. Choose boots/shoes with plenty of cushioning in the soles to absorb the impact of walking on hard, frozen ground. Also make sure you choose foot wear that is warm, we also don’t want you loosing any of those little piggies.
* Use the right size shovel. Your shovel should be about chest high on you, allowing you to keep your back straight when lifting. A shovel with a short staff forces you to bend more to lift the load. A too-tall shovel makes the weight heavier at the end. (Note: Save your money – don’t buy a fancy ergonomic shovel; studies have shown that in some models, the hook end is too deep. Twisting to unload a shovelful of snow with this tool may hurt your wrists.) Also keep one hand close to the base of the shovel to balance weight and lessen the strain on your back.
* Timing is everything. Listen to weather forecasts so you can shovel in ideal conditions. If possible, wait until the afternoon to shovel. Many disc injuries occur in the morning when there is increased fluid pressure in the disc because your body has been at rest all night and the disc have become re-hydrated.
* Drink lots of water. Drinking water frequently throughout the day helps to keep muscles and body hydrated. Be careful with hot drinks like coffee or soda pop or energy drinks (Dr. Simpson loves his monsters). Caffeine has a dehydrating effect and adds even more stress to the body.
* Use proper posture. When you do shovel, bend your knees and keep your back straight while lifting with your legs. Push the snow straight ahead; don’t try to throw it. Walk it to the snow bank. Try to shovel forward to avoid sudden twists of the torso and reduce strain on the back.
* Take your time. Working too hard, too fast is an easy way to strain muscles. Take frequent breaks. Shovel for about five minutes at a time and then rest for two minutes. Making sure you don’t break a sweat is important, during the colder weather you have a highly likelihood of hypothermia.
* See your chiropractor. Adjustments will help keep your back flexible and minimize the chance for injury. If you do overdo it, your chiropractor can help you feel better and prevent more injury.