Winter in Idaho can bring a LOT of snow. And we've already accumulated a bunch this past week. This article lists some tips for protecting your body during snow removal - while using a shovel or snow blower. Most are common sense, yet still worth reviewing.
1. Warm up muscles to prevent straining. Like bubble gum, warmer muscles stretch better than cold ones. Use a stationary bike or treadmill if you have one. If not, walk up and down the stairs a couple of time. Try a simple stretch by slowly reaching for your toes, then stand with hand on hips and lean backwards.
2. Dress warm. This may seem obvious. However, when you get in a hurry, the obvious gets overlooked. Warm, waterproof gloves, shoes and a hat that covers your ears will keep the most vulnerable body parts protected. A good winter coat and snow pants for colder and windier days is also a must.
3. Keep your back in neutral position and bend at hips and knees. This doesn't mean that you can't lean forward, but that you maintain the natural curves in your back as you do so.
4. Avoid twisting and bending - pivot through your hips and feet to turn, step into the direction you need to move the snow, then turn the shovel to dump the snow.
5. Take frequent breaks. Walk around, stretch or go inside for a warm drink.
6. Lift small amounts at a time, especially if many inches of snow have fallen at once, or if the snow is wet and heavy.
6. Don't allow the snow to become more dense over time. This results in heavier loads in the shovel and can strain muscles and places more pressure on intervertebral discs.
7. Invest in a snowblower if possible. Be sure to use leg muscles the most, core muscles for stability and arms just to steer. Also watch posture when reaching to turn the flue.
If you do strain muscles or joints removing snow, physical therapy can help! The sooner they are treated, the faster the recovery. A physical therapist can determine the root of the problem, provide individual treatment, as well as give instruction on what to do at home to help you recover and regain strength and mobility. Don't let an injury ruin your winter!