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Shovelling

During our Ontario winters we tend to see a great deal of snowfall. Snow removal becomes necessary for many of us to get out of our driveways and to clear sidewalks. For others shovelling can be a necessary component of their job. Snow shovelling is a cardiovascular workout and can cause stress or strain on our body including our heart. However, shovelling can be enjoyable if performed in a safe and ergonomically correct way. With the proper selection of shovels and equipment and proper shoveling techniques risk of injury can be reduced.

Selection of a proper snow shovel:
  • an ergonomic, curved handle helps to keep the back straight
  • handle length should be suitable for your height or adjustable to limit the need for bending of the lower back
  • a durable, plastic blade is recommended for lighter weight

Remember to dress warmly. Dressing in layers helps to avoid overheating. Proper fitting, slip resistant boots with a good tread helps to reduce the risk of slips and falls. Watch for uneven ground or ice patches under the snow.

A proper warm up for cold muscles and proper stretching is important prior to shoveling. Warm, flexible muscles are less prone to injury.

Proper Technique:
  • stand with your feet shoulder width apart for better balance
  • turn your feet to directly face the object you are shovelling. Never lift and twist
  • keep the shovel close to you with one hand close to the blade and the other hand further down the handle approximately 12 inches apart
  • push the snow when possible rather than lift
  • when lifting the snow only half fill the blade or use a smaller blade to control excess weight. When dealing with deep snow, scoop snow in small layers
  • bend your hips and knees while keeping your back straight. Do not bend your back!
  • tighten your abdominal muscles and lift with your legs
  • walk to where you want to dump the snow rather than tossing it

Remove snow more frequently rather than moving large amounts of heavy accumulated snow at once.
Remember fresh snow is lighter.

Snow shoveling is a workout and not all people who shovel are fit. Pace yourself and get help as needed. Do not lift anything that is too heavy for you. Take a short break as needed. It is of upmost importance to listen to your body. Stop if you experience muscle pain or strain, shortness of breath, chest, upper body or jaw pain/pressure/discomfort or heart palpitations. Other symptoms of cardiac distress include nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, sudden extreme fatigue or anxiety. Seek medical attention if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Remember not everyone is physically able to remove their own snow. So if you enjoy that brisk winter weather take into consideration others who are unable to clear theirs.

By Faye Cronan BSC(PT)
Registered Physiotherapist