Some Tips on Shovelling Snow - It's More Dangerous Then You Think!

Old Man Winter - did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or what?

All over the country, and the world for that matter, unsuspecting good citizens have been blasted with pile after pile of snow. The white stuff has made a starring appearance this year, more so then I can ever remember. Now, living in Virginia, it hasn't been so bad here. But the Northeast has been pounded. On a day when we did get quite a bit, I went outside to shovel my driveway. I think I would rather have run a marathon. The next day, I felt like I had been shoved in the washing maching on the imaginary "wring" cycle. Which led me to wonder - shovelling snow? Really? Am I a wimp, or is this more dangerous than I thought?

Answer - it was more dangerous then I thought.  Each year, shoveling and snow-blower injuries result in more than 100,000 serious emergency room visits in North America.  Some are just old injuries which are aggravated.  But much more are very, very serious.  Some suffer heart attacks and even death.  We tend to think of snow as light and fluffy.  But when it builds up, it becomes very heavy.  Not to mention the fact that we repeat the same motion over and over again.  All that upper body usage is something our bodies may not be used to, even in the fittest human beings.  We don't think of snow shovelling as an exercise, and a heavy one at that.  This is where we make a big mistake.

So what can we do?  Well, for one, stretch and warm up BEFORE you go outside.  Just like before any other strenuous activity, you need to warm your muscles up to prevent any strains or injuries.  Another good tip is to layer your clothes.  It may be cold outside, but you're going to heat up fast from all that bending and lifting.  It's better to dress in layers that you can peel off as you go along.  Also, make sure you keep water nearby.  Yes, I know it's 17 degrees outside.  But, as with any other exercise, you need to hydrate.  Do NOT partake of any nicotine or caffeine, i.e. smoke a cigarette or drink a cup of coffee.  This will cause your heart to work faster, which is the last thing you need. 

Another important item to pay attention to is your technique.  Many experts recommend pushing the snow rather than lifting.  If you do have to lift, bend at the knees and step in the direction that you are shovelling.  Don't forget to breathe.  If you feel out of breath, stop until you can catch your breath.  Sometimes it's a good idea to break the work up - for instance, clear one half of the driveway and then clear the other.  Another great idea is to share the work with a partner.  Maybe you can shovel half and then they can clear the other half.  This is a great way to get the job done.

I have loads of clients that come in to me with injuries right around a heavy snowfall, and when I ask how it happened, nine times out of ten shovelling snow is the culprit.  Now, I'm not saying don't shovel when it does snow.  It's a  necessity, obviously.  But if you know the right techniques, are aware of the dangers, and take precautions, it can be a lot less scary.  Don't forget after shovelling - try taking a hot epsom salt bath to keep those muscles nice and loose.  Also, don't forget to book your massage the next morning.  And if you're in the Richmond area, call me for the job.  :)

Be safe, and thanks for reading.

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Ryan-Palmsy profile image

Ryan-Palmsy 4 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

Where I work I have to do a lot of shoveling, and it is one of them tasks that doesn't seem dangerous, but totally is! Useful and voted up :)

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