Shovelling snow can bring a high possibility of injury.
Dr. Trevor Clark and Dr. Jane Peterson of Connect Chiropractic share with us their top tips for keeping your body in tip-top shape this winter while still making sure your driveway is cleared.
Choose a shovel suitable to your body type
As simple as it sounds, the type of shovel you use to clear snow in the winter affects your body.
"If you're 6'4", 225 pounds of solid muscle... of course you can use a bigger shovel and get away with it," explained Clark. Those on the smaller side of the size spectrum, however, would do better to consider a smaller tool to move the snow and ice from your driveway.
The wrong shovel, too, can lead to problems such as twisting and contorting your body, Peterson said.
Proper footwear is extremely important to wear when shovelling snow. "You want to have good grip," Clark said.
"If you're wearing something quite slippery, you don't have the stability that you normally would to push that snow."
A good base is essential to shovelling in a way that is not harmful to your body, added Peterson, emphasizing a proper stance to accompany sturdy footwear.
"Standing with your feet shoulder-width or hip-width apart is ideal."
Warm up first
"Move well, eat well, think well, and power well," according to Clark and Peterson, are the four keys to staying healthy.
"[Shovelling snow], of course, is on the 'move well' side of things."
Any 'move well' action, Peterson says, requires a proper warm up.
"When shovelling snow, you can get up to 80 or 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate," she explained, "so it gets pretty intense."
Pulling a muscle or throwing out your back isn't the only concern when it comes to shovelling. Clark says research shows that men have a higher chance of having a heart attack during shovelling.
"Just warming up" by taking a quick walk around the block is one of the biggest things Clark recommends to prevent added strain on your body due to shovelling. "Something to get your heart rate up... before you start an intensive thing like snow shovelling."
"Shovel like a snow plough"
Once you have the right equipment, it's important to ensure that you're using it in a way that's beneficial to your body.
"You want to think of yourself like a snow plough," advises Clark, "you want to push snow; you don't want to lift the snow... keep your nose between your toes."
But the more snow you accumulate, the higher the chance you may need to lift some of it anyways. Should this be the case, Clark recommends keeping the lower back straight and bending your knees to provide the lift.
Bending and twisting, explained Peterson, is the worst thing you can do for your lower back. "Engage your core muscles... they provide basically a brace for your lumbar spine."
Peterson also recommends good posture while shovelling as another way to care for your body.
"Rather than trying to shovel and lift the snow, try to plough the snow and move it forward, then lift with your legs," the chiropractor shared.
Finally, keeping everything close to you while shovelling is a great way to prevent sprains and other uncomfortable injuries while clearing your driveway.
Injury does happen
Despite our best efforts, it's easy to slip or experience some sort of pain due to shovelling.
If you do experience any sort of discomfort from your activity, Clark recommends icing the area for 10 to 15 minutes on top of a thin shirt over the course of a couple days.
Should the pain persist beyond that, it might be time to seek additional help.
"That's where chiropractic can come in," he shared.