Shovelling: how to stay safe this winter and prevent injuries! Physiotherapy Yonge and Eglinton!

Winter is here- stay injury free!

With winter comes fun activities including skating and skiing. Winter can also bring on cold temperatures that bring snow and ice, making shovelling driveways necessary.
Have you ever felt back pain after shovelling your driveway? Shovelling requires compound movements of the body and involves the use of the arms, legs, core and back muscles to help us lift the snow and move it off the driveway! Please read below for some tips on how to shovel in a safe and ergonomic way:

  • Factors to consider when selecting a shovel: weight, handle type, length, blade size and shape
    1. Weight: Light weight shovel – easier to manage and less unproductive load and easier for shovelling light snow
    2. Height: when blade is on the ground, the shaft should come to about elbow height with arms at your side. Bent versus non bent shafts are a matter of preference and although not proven, bent shafts can ease load on back but this can vary from person to person so see what works for you.
    3. Blade size and shape: for winter shovelling some blades are designed more for pushing and some more for lifting but try out various shovels to see which feels more comfortable for you.
    4. Time: continuous shovelling can lead to fatigue in the muscles which can ultimately result in sprains and strains, particularly of the low back. Try to take frequent breaks when shovelling
  • Before shovelling: warm up exercises – some body weight squats and mobility stretches can help loosen the muscles and warm up them up before shovelling
  • Heat or ice can help ease discomfort after shovelling depending on what area(s) are sore or what your history of injury may be. Speaking to a physiotherapist is recommended to get specific advice on this!
  • Have shovel close to body, bend down and keep back straight, core engaged and use legs as much as possible to help drive you up. Hinge from your hips, not your back! This avoids strain on the knees and back. A staggered stance if balance is ok or a wider stance for squatting can help

If you want to learn more, check out the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website in the references. All of the above are general guidelines but if you are experiencing specific difficulty with an injury, it is best to talk to your physiotherapist for recommendations and treatment. If you have a history of health related problems, it may be safer to clear this activity with your doctor before or seek the assistance of a shovelling service.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy winter! If you are experiencing any aches, pains, injuries, it is best to get this checked out by a physiotherapist. Don’t wait it out, get it checked out!
By Olivia Skrastins
Registered Physiotherapist
Physiotherapist Olivia Skrastins

You May Also Like…

My Story – Kelsey Vickers

My Story – Kelsey Vickers

My passion for physiotherapy came to me later in life. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in anatomy from...