Watch out for the Snow Monster
There have been some rumblings about snow in the Valley in time for Christmas! As a chiropractor two things run through my mind. No. 1: maybe some snow will be good for business and No. 2: it’s probably a good time for a few tips on snow shovelling.
Back when we were all young studs or studettes out in the prairies we could all probably shovel snow all day, seven days a week, all winter; however, that is probably no longer the case.
Our west coast living does not keep us ‘up’ on our snow shovelling conditioning so here are some important tips.
1. Don’t rush the job, take your time. This is true for any new physically demanding job that you’re undertaking for the first time. Your body will need a bit of conditioning before you can really fire up the shovelling guns. Apparently, if you’re older and out of shape, your risk of having a heart attack in the hour after a vigorous snow shovelling session is increased 53 times!
2. Avoid coffee and nicotine before you shovel. These chemicals increase blood pressure and will increase the stress on your heart while you’re working. Better yet, quit smoking all together.
3. When you’re starting out at the beginning of the season, use a smaller shovel or begin with small loads.
4. Start slow and build up the intensity. Hockey players go for a skate to get the blood moving before they play the game. That’s true for snow shovelling too.
5. Take lots of stretching breaks. Shovelling is tough work. Every five to 10 minutes take a short “back” stretch break. I like to stand up very straight, roll my shoulders, arch my back backwards a little, then get back at it.
6. Keep the load close to your body. When you lift the shovel full of snow, keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Keep the shovel head close to your body; carry the load close to where you’re going to dump. Try not to twist your back as you work. To reduce your work even more, you can try pushing the shovel to where you need to dump the snow. Get rid of that whole lifting process all together.
7. Take a few minutes to stretch after the job is done. You may think you’re an athlete but shovelling is probably a new activity. Try and head off tomorrow’s stiffness with a five minute total body stretch today.
8. Dress in layers that can be removed as you warm up. In our country that may include a rain jacket.
9. Watch out for hidden ice. We know the videos on America’s funniest videos have a few very funny slip and fall sections; I would hate to see you on one of them.
10. Watch for the warning signs of a heart attack and don’t be embarrassed to go to emergency. Warning signs include shortness of breath, burning pain in your chest or arms, dizziness, and unreasonable fear just to mention a few.
11. It doesn’t hurt to see your medical doctor (or your chiropractor) periodically for a physical. If you haven’t been for awhile, before the snow shovelling season is a good time.
12. The method I use to keep my back limber and healthy — get the kids to do the shovelling.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Dr. Martin Barker