It's almost that time of year again... That time when we throw our scrapers into the car, take out our winter clothes, and trade in our ball caps for toques. It also means that it's near time to dig the snow shovel out of the garage for the inevitable storms to come. For most of us shovelling is just another part of winter, something we don't give much mind to, but it is undoubtedly one of the most common causes of preventable injuries through the winter months.
Shovelling at its worse is essentially bending forward with a heavy weight on the end of a stick, followed by lifting and twisting repeatedly, all of which are biomechanical no-no's. The combined bending, rotation, speed, and distance the snow is away from you body all factor into the stress placed on the body's tissues, specifically your low back. Multiply that by how large your driveway is and how fatigued or tired you might be and it all has the potential for disaster.
So what do you do? There are a few key points to keep in mind when shovelling, the first of which is to try and keep yourself from hunching forward the entire time. Make sure you have a shovel that fits you, and then get ready to give your legs a work out as you bend from the knees rather than the back, and stride along side the shovel as you clear your driveway. This will help you to use those big muscles around your hips and thighs that are made to move heavy loads while keeping your back in a position that it can work effectively and efficiently. Secondly, try to avoid twisting through the back. If you can't get away with just pushing the snow off your driveway and still need to lift it over the bank, make sure to open up your hips (e.g. point your leading foot in the direction your going to throw) and use your legs to help. This is the same tip we give for any activity involving rotation such as swinging a golf club or hockey stick. Lastly, keep the weight/ scoop close to your body when you're lifting or moving it side to side; the further the load is from your body the more torque you experience at your low back. Also, filling your shovel to the top will produce unnecessary amounts of torque. A shovel full of snow can weigh anywhere up to 40-50 lbs depending on the size of the scoop and density of the snow, whereas the Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety only recommends shovel fulls between 10-25 lbs depending on how fast you're shovelling. So it's better to play it safe and give yourself a little more time than to rush and try and clear your driveway in as few scoops as possible.
These tips combined with a light warm-up and some structured breaks should help keep you fit and active through the wintery season. If you are experiencing problems however or have further questions about getting ready for the winter season, please contact us at 902-530-3553 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.