When Living in Canada, Snow is a Way of Life!

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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

Pace yourself:

  • 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

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Liz Grant, Contributor and Physiotherapist at Quinte Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation Specialists