Despite the less than desirable temperatures during this time of year, most people can appreciate the beauty of pine trees blanketed in fresh snow. Winter may also evoke pleasant, childhood memories of snowball fights, sledding or the mug of hot chocolate after hours of playing outdoors. As adults, snow takes on a new meaning as we are forced to drive in it and to remove it from our driveways. Shoveling, in particular can cause a lot of potential problems with the back and shoulders if the proper precautions are not taken. Follow these tips below to help avoid pain this winter season:
- Stay Warm: Make sure you wear the proper attire while outdoors. Muscles are less prone to injury and stiffening up if they are warm. It is important to dress in layers so that if you become too warm you can take your outer layers off.
- Stretch: shoveling is hard work, especially if you have been sedentary for several hours prior to activity. Do some arm circles, neck circles and gently rotate the lower back side to side before reaching for the shovel.
- Stay balanced: With snow often times comes ice. One small misstep can cause a slip and fall which can lead to misalignments in the spine, strained muscles, bruising and broken bones. Make sure your boots have proper grip to decrease the likelihood of this from happening. You can also purchase a traction device (such as Yaktrax) which slide over your boots.
- Take frequent loads: Snow can be heavy. To avoid straining your muscles, it is better to take more, small loads rather than fewer loads.
- Avoid throwing snow: More back injuries occur when activities are performed away from the body such as throwing snow onto a pile. Twisting while throwing is even more problematic. After picking up snow with the shovel, walk it to the pile rather than trying to heave it across the driveway.
- Take frequent breaks: If it is not crucial to leave your house by a certain time, it can be helpful to take breaks while shoveling. This is important advice for the elderly population as well as those that are out of shape.
- Know your limits: If you already suffer from back and shoulder issues or you have injured yourself from shoveling in the past, it may be a good idea to forgo this activity. Rely on a neighbor or grandchild to help out.
Even if you are experiencing mild stiffness after shoveling, it is a good idea to have your spine checked by your chiropractic. They can help you prevent these symptoms from becoming worse in the days ahead.
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