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Patient Education: Diseases Conditions Treatments & Procedures

Injury Prevention

Snow Shovelling

With the arrival of the winter season, many of us have dusted off our snow shovels, or if we're lucky, our snow blowers. But, for those of us that have to remove the snow the old-fashioned way, it's important to remember proper snow-shovelling techniques.

Heavy snowfalls, slippery conditions and improper techniques can lead to serious injuries. The good news is most of these injuries are preventable.

Here are some tips to staying warm and injury-free this winter:

  • Warm up and stretch about five to ten minutes before beginning any snow removal. This will help get your joints moving and increase your blood circulation. Remember to include back, arm, shoulder and leg stretches.
  • Don't let the snow pile up. Removing small amounts of snow frequently is easier on the body.
  • Choose the right shovel. Using an ergonomic shovel can minimize strain on your body, especially on your lower back. Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel with a bended pole.
  • Push the snow to the side. Don't pick up the snow and throw it. If you must throw the snow, avoid twisting and turning your body.
  • Bend your knees. Use your knees, legs and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting. Keep the pressure off your back - remember to keep your back straight.
  • Be careful around ice. Coarse sand, ice salt, or even kitty litter can help give your walkway and driveway more traction, reducing the chance of a slip or fall.
  • Always dress for the weather. Layer your clothing, and wear a hat and gloves or mittens. Also, wear shoes and boots with solid treads and rubber soles which can help minimize your risk of slipping or falling. Wearing the proper footwear will also protect your toes from frostbite.
  • Take a break. Make it a habit to rest for a minute or two for every 10 to 15 minutes of shovelling. This is particularly important if the snow is wet and heavy and if you do not exercise regularly.
  • Stay hydrated. Even in cold temperatures, your body requires plenty of fluids. Be sure to drink lots of water or juice before and after shovelling. Also, by following a healthy diet and exercising, you can help minimize injury.

For more information or tips, visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association.

Tips shared by Dr. Scott Howitt, St. John’s Rehab Chiropractic Clinic