Winter’s Here – Can You Dig It?

Many people do not realize how much stress snow shovelling can impose on the body

Injuries related to snow shovelling and /or snow removal happen every year; back and neck strains, pulled leg or arm muscles, heart attacks as well as exhaustion:

  • Snow shovelling requires as much energy as running 15 kilometres per hour. 
  • The initial attempt at snow shovelling , especially if it is wet, is like picking up heavy weights. 
  • One full shovel load of wet snow can weigh as much as 25 pounds. 
It’s not surprising then that many people suffer from muscle fatigue , low back and/or shoulder pain, vertebral disc damage and even spinal fractures during the winter season.

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) offers a pile of Back-friendly S.M.A.R.T. (Stretch, Move, Add it Up, Reduce Strain, Talk to a Physiotherapist ) tips for snow shovelling.

STRETCH- Before, during and after activity. If you have ever experienced sore muscles and a painful back the day after shovelling , your muscles were probably not sufficiently warmed up prior to activity. 

Cold tight muscles are more likely to strain than warm, relaxed muscles. Take time to stretch and prepare your body for activity .

MOVE - Push the shovel to move the snow and avoid lifting whenever possible. 

  • Face the snow you are about to shovel. 
  • Always keep your back straight , your knees bent and throw the snow forward. 
  • Avoid twisting and throwing the snow over your shoulder.

ADD It Up - 15 minutes of snow shovelling counts as moderate physical activity. 

Add up all you do in a day and aim for a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. 

Brisk walking, snowshoeing and skiing are other ways to keep fit with physical activity during cold winter months.

REDUCE Strain - Low back injuries are most common when shovelling snow. 

It usual occurs when a person bends forward and then abruptly twists to one side .

TALK to a Physiotherapist!
Tips from Deidre that will help reduce Strain are:
  • Choose a Shovel that’s right for you
  • Wait until the afternoon to shovel. Many disc problems occur in the morning when there is increased fluid pressure in the disc
  • Lift the snow properly
  • Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow 
  • Take frequent breaks when shovelling
  • Dress warmly and make sure your back is well covered.