Tips for clearing snow- January

Tips for clearing snow. Physiotherapy for healthy back in Sherwood Park

-Satish Pandya, B.Sc. PT, CG IMS, CMAc.

You may have made some resolutions for 2016. One of the most important resolutions you can make is to improve your health. If you are suffering from chronic pain and are not sure about what type of treatment may give you relief, consider contacting one of our highly-skilled physical therapists today.

Our trained professionals can provide you with advice regarding physical therapy methods that have proven to be successful in treating a variety of conditions. Our physiotherapists would be happy to assess your current condition and create a program tailored specifically to your needs and goals. Call Eastgate Physiotherapy to make an appointment or to ask any questions you may have.

 staying healthy while clearing snow.

As winter approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, more and more people will be finding themselves removing snow from their driveways and sidewalks, an activity that can easily lead to injury.  Hypothermia, back and shoulder injuries, slips and falls, and even heart attacks can all occur because of improper shoveling.  The danger is not confined to the driveway either; falls while clearing snow from the roof also account for injuries such as spinal fractures, extremity fractures and head injury. 
There are several things you can do to minimize the risk of injuries while clearing your home of snow.

  • Stay covered - You might get hot and sweaty while shoveling, but your body is still susceptible to the cold. Keep your gloves on to prevent your fingers from getting frostbite.
  • Don’t drink coffee to warm up - The caffeine in it can increase your heart rate. Stick to hot cocoa (this has some caffeine too) or decaffeinated tea. An elevated heart rate interferes with the normal function of the heart and can be very dangerous.  The biggest risk of an elevated heart rate occurs if a person already has a weakened heart.  People with any type of cardiovascular disease, older adults or sedentary individuals need to take extra care that their heart rate does not get dangerously elevated.
  • Keep hydrated - Take a water break every 20-30 minutes.
  • Avoid back strain by following these steps:
    • Warm up first. Shoveling can be an intense exercise so warming up your muscles and getting your heart pumping before you start will reduce your risk of muscle strain.
    • Shovel smaller loads. Over the course of a driveway you can shovel a ton of snow (literally).  By making each load smaller, you can avoid strain on your back.
    • Lift with your knees, not your back.
    • Step in the direction you are throwing the snow and avoid twisting.
    • Don’t keep your hands together on the shovel. Spacing your hands apart will make it easier to lift.
    • Use a smaller shovel. This will force you to pick up smaller loads and the decrease in weight can save your back and other muscles.
    • Don’t wait until the snow stops and then try to get rid of all of it at once.  Go out a few times during breaks in the storm to clear the driveway of a smaller amount of snow.
    • Take breaks.  (Grab a drink of water at the same time.)
    • If possible, push the snow to the side instead of lifting it.
    • And for a shoveling home remedy: if wet snow is sticking to your shovel, cooking spray will allow the snow to slide off more easily.

Heart attacks that occur during winter months are most frequently attributed to shoveling snow, if there has been a snow storm. If you know you will be dealing with snow this winter, visit your doctor or physiotherapist first for a checkup. 
For more tips on how to shovel safely and reduce your risk of injury, talk to the trained, licensed physiotherapists at Eastgate Physiotherapy. They will let you know if you are healthy enough for the activity and give you more steps to take to further minimize any damage that might occur. If you have already suffered an injury because of shoveling or any other activity, one of our physiotherapists would be happy to assess your injury and create a program tailored specifically to your needs and goals. Call Eastgate Physiotherapy to make an appointment or to ask any questions you may have.
1: Pipas L, Schaefer N, Brown LH. Falls from rooftops after heavy snowfalls: the
risks of snow clearing activities. Am J Emerg Med. 2002 Nov;20(7):635-7. 
3.  Persinger MA, Ballance SE, Moland M. Snow fall and heart attacks. J Psychol.
1993 Mar;127(2):243-52. 


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