Preparation for shoveling

Winter is here and so are the snowstorms, which means we're going to get out our shovels and get to work. What people don't realize is that shoveling is quite a strenuous activity and it's not a regular activity. It is therefore very easy to injure yourself in this way because our bodies are not used to these actions, nor the endurance or specific strength. But our body can adapt to it. When we do a new activity, we are often teased (even when we are in good shape), why? The reason is simple; each new gesture causes our muscles to work differently and that's what causes irritation. For example, starting a new bodybuilding program: the first sessions are horrible and you hurt everywhere. Or a simple game of soccer and you have trouble walking the next day. You are not injured, but well beaten. If you do these activities more regularly, your muscles will adapt and you won't have any more pain. Same for shoveling! The first times are difficult and very harmful for the lower back since it is a lifting activity. Especially since we never warm up before going to shovel and we never stretch afterwards. To avoid injury, you should treat shoveling as a physical activity. Here are a few tips to get you ready for shoveling season.

1)      A good warm up

Shoveling uses several muscles including: arms, legs, upper back and lower back. Warming up with a brisk walk and some light stretching could save you from a lot of pain the next day.

2)      Lift with your legs

Good technique is very important, especially if the snow is wet and heavy. Avoid lifting a shovel full of snow by using your back muscles. Instead, bend your knees and lift with your legs. Keep your back aligned and try to stand as straight as possible with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart.

3)      Know your limits

Take it easy at first and take regular poses every 15-20 minutes. Stop, walk a little, stretch, drink a little hot chocolate. These frequent little breaks will give you time to regenerate and enjoy the time outdoors.

4)      Use the right tools

One of the main concerns with shoveling is being bent forward with your back hunched over. To avoid this, make sure you find a shovel that is the right height and has an appropriate weight. This will prevent you from feeling the need to lean too far forward.

5)      Change sides regularly

Like dribbling a basketball, people tend to favor one hand or side of their body when shoveling. To avoid using the same muscles over and over again, try switching sides after a few minutes to avoid muscle fatigue.

6)      Exercise regularly

People who exercise year-round are less likely to injure themselves doing outdoor tasks because their muscles are more accustomed to physical activity.

7)      Get treatment regularly

It is important to get treatment regularly. This accustoms our body to being relaxed and can prevent you from injuries during tasks such as shoveling or gardening. Physiotherapy and sports massage can help you find and maintain flexibility. Osteopathy will realign you, acupuncture will help re-stabilize your energies and massage therapy will help you relax. Don't wait until you get hurt, but if you do, know that we can help you!


Yanic Szoghy

Physiotherapist and sports massage therapist