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Peak Physical Therapy
Helping you every step of the way


Happy New Year from all of us at Peak Physical Therapy!

Winter is here in Southern Alberta!  With the constant change in snow conditions (thank you very much chinooks and storms!), more and more people will be finding themselves removing snow from their driveways, sidewalks and roofs.  Unfortunately, this essential activity can easily lead to injury. 

Hypothermia, back and shoulder injuries, slips and falls, and even heart attacks can all occur because of improper shoveling.  We at Peak Physical Therapy want everyone to stay healthy during any activity, so this month’s newsletter is dedicated to keeping you injury free when shoveling this winter.

There are several things you can do to minimize the risk of injuries while clearing your home of snow:

  • Stay Covered - You might get hot and sweaty while shoveling, but your body is still susceptible to the cold. Keep your gloves and toque on to prevent frostbite and excessive heat loss.
  • Layer – Be sure to dress for the temperature.  Breathable, lightweight long-underwear are a great option.  Avoid materials such as cotton and lycra, which do not wick moisture from your skin.
  • Avoid Caffeine– A caffeinated beverage can increase your heart rate. Stick to hot cocoa (this has minimal caffeine) or decaffeinated coffee or tea. An elevated heart rate interferes with the normal function of the heart and can be very dangerous.  Those with any type of cardiovascular disease, older adults or sedentary individuals need to ensure that their heart rate stays at a safe rate, especially with physical activity.
  • Keep Hydrated - Take a water break every 20-30 minutes.
  • Avoid Back Strain:
    • Warm up first; stretch your arms and legs, and then march in place for 5 min. Shoveling can be an intense exercise so warming up your muscles and getting your heart pumping before you start will reduce your risk of muscle strain.
    • Shovel smaller loads.
    • Lift with your knees, not your back.
    • Step in the direction you are throwing the snow to avoid twisting.
    • Don’t keep your hands together on the shovel. Spacing your hands apart will make it easier to lift.
    • Use a smaller shovel. This will force you to pick up smaller loads and the decrease in weight.
    • Don’t wait until the snow stops and then try to get rid of all of it at once. During breaks in the storm, go out and shovel.
    • Take breaks!
    • If possible, push the snow to the side instead of lifting it.
    • And for a shoveling home remedy: if wet snow is sticking to your shovel, cooking spray will allow the snow to slide off more easily.
    • Heart attacks that occur during winter months are most frequently attributed to shoveling snow. If you know you will be dealing with snow this winter, visit your doctor first for a checkup. 

For more tips on how to shovel safely, or for ways to reduce your risk of injury, talk to the trained, licensed physiotherapists at Peak Physical Therapy.  If you have already suffered an injury because of shoveling or any other activity, one of our Peak Physical Therapy physiotherapists would be happy to assess your injury and create a program tailored specifically to your needs and goals. Call Peak Physical Therapy to make an appointment or to ask any questions you may have.

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