Snow Shoveling Season Has Arrived
First, I’d like to wish you all a belated Happy New Year!
I hope 2018 is off to a great start, despite the deep freeze of winter that has descended upon Downtown DC, Foggy Bottom, and Dupont Circle as we’ve tried to put the stress filled holiday season in the rear-view mirror. With this new season comes new challenges for staying pain free and avoiding injury. While the DC metro area has not yet had a significant snow fall, shovels have already been taken out of storage to clear driveways and walkways of ice and snow.
** Before addressing proper shoveling technique it is important to talk about safety and potential cardiovascular dangers of shoveling snow. One reason that shoveling snow is hazardous is because it involves significant work and strain of the arms. Upper extremity (arms) exercise raises heart rate and blood pressure much quicker than lower extremity (legs) exercise. For those with high blood pressure, other cardiovascular diseases, or individuals who are deconditioned this is especially important as this sudden rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure can have significant and potentially dangerous consequences. For these individuals it is important to take frequent breaks to rest while shoveling. **
Proper Shoveling Technique and Helpful Tips
The best suggestion is to avoid shoveling altogether and award the job to your teenager or the local kids trying to make a few extra dollars. If those options are not available these suggestions will help get you through the winter.
Everyone has heard the phrase “lift with your legs, not your back” but seldom does that actually happen. Just because you bend your knees does not mean that you are not using your back to lift. Most individuals still flex (bend) all the way forward while shoveling despite bending their knees. This leads to significant strain on the low back while straightening up with a shovel full of heavy snow. It is important to follow a squat pattern while shoveling. This will place the more significant load on the leg and gluteal musculature while reducing the load on the arms and low back. There are many different squat techniques but simply pretending you are sitting straight down in a chair should get you to load your glutes with most of the weight of the snow when you stand back up. While your back will flex forward a bit during the squat, make sure you don’t go to far and that your back is not parallel to the ground.
Be careful when you toss the snow off your shovel as well, as this involves repetitive rotational stress to the low back. This type repetitive stress can lead to disc herniation / bulge and muscle spasm. Rather than toss the snow over your shoulder or across your body, it is less strain on your back to walk the snow to its new location and drop it there.
Tip #1 – Push the Snow
Avoid lifting entirely if possible by pushing the snow. This can be very effective in moving small amounts of snow and will allow you to let your legs do most of the work.
Tip #2 – Pre-treat Driveway and Walkway with Ice Melt
This can help reduce the potential volume of snow you need to shovel and also aide in preventing slips and falls.
As always, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or topics you would like to see discussed in this space, give me a call at 202-733-5604, or schedule an appointment to come meet with me in person and discuss a personalized treatment plan.
Talk to you soon and stay warm.
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