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One shovelful at a time: tips for shovelling snow safely

2019/11/22 Home Education and advice

Although shovelling may seem like a harmless activity, many injuries occur because of improper movements.

One shovelful at a time: tips for shovelling snow safely

For many of us, shovelling is a task that we do mechanically, without thinking about it too much.

However, like any task requiring physical effort, this task is not without risk of injury. Most injuries are caused by poor technique, repetitive movements over a prolonged period, and sometimes too heavy a load.

Most shovelling accidents result in lower back problems, shoulder or wrist pain, as well as injuries to the cervical region. To become a skilled shoveller and thereby prevent injuries, you can make adjustments to the activity by applying the following recommendations.

Choosing the right tools

  • Use a lightweight shovel that has a handle that reaches your chest height.
  • Use a shovel with an ergonomic handle (curved handle and comfort grip).
  • If possible, use a snow scoop or sleigh shovel to push rather than lift the snow.
  • Wear clothing appropriate to weather conditions.

Perform a warm-up

Shovelling snow requires varying degrees of physical effort. Warming up can help to considerably reduce the risk of injury. The purpose of this warm-up is to activate the most important muscle groups, especially the shoulders, back and legs.

The warm-up period should last at least 5 minutes.

For example, you can:

  • Take a short walk, increasing the pace gradually.
  • Do some standard stretching exercises such as shoulder and pelvic rotation, flexion and extension of the lumbar region.

If you are unable to warm up due to lack of time, start shovelling slowly and then gradually increase the pace and snow load.

Use an appropriate technique

  • Avoid twisting motions at the trunk level. This can be accomplished by keeping your feet and shoulders parallel and orienting your entire body in the direction you are lifting and dumping the snow.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting and dropping snow.
  • Do not overload each shovelful with too much snow.
  • Do not stretch out too far to reach the snow. Move so that it is close to you.
  • Avoid throwing the snow. Carry the snow with you or use a snow scoop.
  • Break up the pile of snow and ice left by the snowplow before lifting it to avoid surprises.
  • Set a regular pace that is not too intense or abrupt. At all times, you should be able to carry out a conversation while shovelling.
  • Take regular breaks.

What about clearing snow from the car?

  • Equip yourself with a snow brush that is proportional to the height of your vehicle.
  • Use a snow brush that is lightweight and has an ergonomic handle (swivel head and comfort grip).
  • Move around your car to avoid working at arm’s length as much as possible.

Feel free to ask your physiotherapist or occupational therapist for advice at your next appointment. Prevention is better than the cure!

The key is to stay active all year round!

Stay fit and healthy throughout the year by exercising regularly. This will help make winter chores seem less strenuous.

However, if, after exercising, pain persists for a few days, consult a health care professional, such as a physiotherapist. He or she will assess your condition and provide you with the appropriate treatment.

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