Father Winter brings the beauty of sparkling snow and crystal icicles - but the flip side is shoveling snow and the risk of falling on the ice.
While you may not get out of clearing the driveway, you CAN take proactive steps to protect your back.
Shoveling Snow - It’s easy to throw your back out when shoving heavy snow, even if you are Superman and train in the gym like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s because the unique movements required to move snow place stress on your lower back like no other exercise.
- Warm Up - take a few minutes before you put your coat on to do some basic stretches: (a) bend at your hips and touch your toes, holding the position for 16 counts; (b) keep your hips locked and twist from side to side for 24 repetitions per side; (c) plant your feet in place and make big circles with your chest in one direction 12 times, then change directions and repeat in reverse 12 times
- DON’T Twist! - Instead, PUSH the snow away. If you have to scoop the snow, keep the filled shovel close to your body so you can more easily balance the load.
- Take Your Time - Shovel small amounts at a time. You’re not in a race and you might even find some solace in the stillness of winter.
Danger! Slipping on the Ice - With the rollercoaster of higher temps followed by plunging temps, ice can accumulate quickly. Then, it hides under the fresh snowfall. This poses a real danger for people with balance issue and the elderly. Even if you’re young and don’t have balance issues, you can still be at risk without knowing it. Here’s what to do:
- Wear Smart Shoes - Even if you’re going just a short distance - like from your door to your car - wear shoes with treaded soles. Carry your work or dress shoes with you and change into them when you’ve safely arrived at your destination. Not only will it protect you when you’re walking, you’ll be prepared in the event you have to get out of the car unexpectedly.
- Watch Where You’re Going - Sounds like common sense, but how many of us try to take one trip from the car to the house and carry too many boxes or groceries? Be sure that you can SEE where you’re going - not just on the side of your load, but over the load, too. Many falls happen when people don’t look and step on a slippery surface.
- Balance Issues? - Use a walking stick with a pick attached. That way, you can easily determine if ice is hiding underneath the snow.
Stretch! Take 10 to 15 minutes out of your day to stretch out your back, quadriceps and hamstrings.
- Back - Lying on the ground, pull your knees into your chest and rock the knees slowly from side to side. Exhale as you bring the knees in to get the most out of your stretch.
- Quadriceps - Hold onto a wall for balance with your right hand and then grab your left foot with your left hand. Open the space between your foot and your hip, pushing your hip forward. That will allow the quadriceps (front of the thigh) to stretch. Hold for 24 counts, then repeat on the left side.
- Hamstrings - Lay on the ground, with your hips next to a wall. Then, put your feet in the air above you and rest them on the wall. This gives your hamstrings a chance to lengthen and loosen their grip on your low back.