From lumbar strains to heart attacks, the physical exertion of shoveling snow can take a toll on the body if proper precautions are not taken. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common injuries related to shoveling snow and provide tips on how to prevent them.
Anyone who has ever shoveled snow has noticed the risk of low back strain. The position and the movement combine to a trifecta of a back health danger zone. Whenever we are working with clients that have low back pain, one of the first things to be aware of is the combination of bending, lifting, and twisting throughout the day. Pretty much the act of shoveling snow.
This combination of motions can set you off on a cycle of back pain, and it can be highly irritating to someone already having back pain. If you've ever had back pain before, then you probably already know about these movements, and you may already be leery about snow shoveling. (We know back pain can be tricky for many people. Check out this past blog about 10 Low Back Pain Myths to help you figure out what's actually going on.)
The Importance of Proper Form
The repetitive motions of lifting and moving snow can put a lot of stress on the muscles, ligaments, and discs of the low back. To minimize this, it is important to use proper form when shoveling. This includes maintaining a neutral spinal alignment, using your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles to lift the snow, and avoiding twisting motions. We go over that more in the video here:
Common Injuries From Shoveling
Common injuries from shoveling include: strain or sprain to the rotator cuff, or wrist and forearm muscles. These type of injuries occur from overuse, from poor technique, or most likely a bit of both. To avoid these, some simple shoulder stability exercises and attention to maintain your wrist position can help. A proactive strategy will have you performing like the park crew on an overnight rebuild.
One serious injury that can occur while shoveling snow is a myocardial infarction, AKA a heart attack. The physical exertion of shoveling snow, combined with the cold weather, can put a lot of stress on the cardiovascular system. Here's more info about What You Should Know About Heart Attacks from Shoveling Snow.
To reduce the risk of a heart attack, it's beneficial to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your shoveling. Assess the snow and how heavy it is. Wet snow is going to be a heavier load, so consider a smaller shovel, or a less than full scoop. Also, pushing the snow instead of lifting it may be an option if the snow is moving easy. The harder you feel you are working, the more strenuous this can be on your heart. Know how to control your effort so that you can finish the job.
In addition to these injuries, there are other hazards associated with shoveling snow such as slips, trips, and falls. To avoid these hazards, it is important to wear shoes with good traction and to be aware of your surroundings, especially when it's icy. As the weather conditions change, so will the safety of your shoveling task.
A regular exercise routine can help to prepare your body for the physical exertion of shoveling snow. This can include exercises such as squats, lunges, and core exercises to strengthen the muscles used while shoveling, such as the erector spinae, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles.
Take It Easy
Shoveling snow can be a dangerous task, and to avoid injuries, use good shoveling technique, take frequent breaks, dress warmly, stay hydrated, be aware of the hazards, and stay active all year round. If you experience any pain or discomfort while shoveling, it is important to stop and ask what's going on. Remember to listen to your body, and if something doesn't feel right, take a break. Lastly, if you have a pre-existing condition or are at risk of a heart attack, it is best to consult your healthcare provider before shoveling snow.