As hardy Canadians, we should embrace winter and take advantage of the great outdoors. While many people recognize that shovelling snow is hard work, physiotherapists caution that shovelling can place severe stress on your heart, and cause stress and strain on your body. Every year, people sustain injuries such as pulled and strained muscles from repetitive twisting and improper lifting.
The Canadian Physiotherapy Association offers the following tips while shovelling:
Choose a shovel that’s right for you:
- a shovel with a curved handle and adjustable length will minimize painful bending
- a shovel blade made of plastic will be lighter than metal, putting less strain on your spine
- a smaller blade will not allow too much snow, and won’t be too heavy for your body to carry
Use proper techniques:
- whenever possible, push the snow rather than lift it
- always face forward, bend at the hips, squat with your legs shoulder- width apart, and keep your back straight
- lift with your legs and scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel
- keep the load close to your body to reduce the strain on your back
- step forward in the direction you are throwing the snow, in order to prevent twisting of the low back. This is the most common reason for back pain the next day
- if you have any concerns about your ability to shovel snow this winter, due to health concerns, injuries or inactivity, ask for help, hire a company to clear your snow or speak to a physiotherapist who can help prepare you for the winter ahead
- clear snow in two stages - skimming snow from the top, then removing the bottom layer
- take frequent breaks when shovelling-stand up straight, walk around periodically to bring your spine back to a neutral position
- do standing extension exercises by placing your hand in the small of your back, bending slightly backwards, hold the position for several seconds - repeating 5 to 10 times
Prevent slips and falls
- use a de-icing product on all stairs and walkways - it saves you shovelling and chipping ice unnecessarily
- wearing good winter footwear can avoid slips on the ice - boots with good traction or external grips can be very beneficial.
This winter, get outside and enjoy the fresh air and the fluffy white stuff. Canadians can still enjoy cardiovascular benefits from snow shovelling if they prepare themselves and listen to their bodies.
Originally Published: December 23, 2017
Travelling is one of life’s many enjoyments. For many, it is what they work toward each year, and it brings them adventure and memories they will have for a lifetime. But travelling in a car or a ‘plane for long hours can make anyone sore and especially for those travelling with injuries, it can be a nightmare.
Being prepared for your next trip is the key to a pain-free successful excursion.
Keeping your spine in good alignment is important when you travel. If you are in a ‘plane, the cabin pressure can cause your back to ache due to mild swelling in the lumbar discs.
Or if you are travelling in a car, the vibration alone can create some back soreness. A lumbar roll or extra pillow slipped behind your back can keep your spine in neutral and reduce the strain. Adjust your seat in the car so that you are close to the steering wheel and your knees are a little above your hips. If you are a passenger, feel free to adjust your seat frequently. A cervical pillow helps keep your neck in a good position as well, and stops that embarrassing head bobble when you drift off to sleep. Believe me, you can give yourself whiplash if you are not careful.
Give yourself time for breaks if you are driving. Getting out of the car for only a minute can make an enormous difference in your comfort over the long haul. Our bodies need to move in order to stay limber, and when we don’t, we begin to feel stiff. If driving, move your hands into different positions to reduce the muscle tightness in your neck. If travelling in a ‘plane, try to get an aisle seat, so you can get up and move around. Stand in the aisle and do some back extensions to help reverse the curve of sitting and lubricate those discs. Pump your ankles and feet to help your circulation and increase blood flow through your whole body.
Remember to wear comfortable clothing, so that you can do a few stretches when you are gassing your car up, or waiting for your ‘plane.
How many times do we over pack! Lugging all those extra clothes and shoes around from one venue to the next just puts extra strain on your joints and muscles. The new bags with four wheels are much better and reduce the amount of lifting required, but they still need to be put onto baggage carriages, dragged up and down stairs, and pulled up and down long ramps. If you are not used to these awkward positions, it can be extremely hard on the arms and back. Often the simple answer is to just pack less!
It is important to keep hydrated before, during and after long trips. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps and tightness, so be sure to have easy access to water at all times.
Travelling with an Injury
If you are travelling with a previous injury that you have been rehabilitating, ask your health care provider what specific exercises you can do while on your trip. If you require specific stretches, you can use your luggage strap to get the best mobility out of the muscle. A piece of Theraband can be tucked away in your bag and will keep you strong if you don’t have access to weights. Don’t put your injury on holiday, and try to be proactive while you are away.
Being prepared before your next trip will increase your enjoyment and help reduce travel soreness.
Originally Published: November 18, 2017