Snow shovelling without the strain, a chiropractor offers 5 tips

With 20 fresh centimetres of snow on the ground, CBC's Metro Morning turns to a chiropractor for some back-saving tips about safe shovelling.

How to clear that driveway without wrecking your back

She may look happy, but it's better to push the snow, instead of throwing it. (Mike Groll/Associated Press)

As the city digs out from Tuesday night's snowstorm, CBC's Metro Morning spoke to Dr. Michael Sommers, a Roncesvalles-based chiropractor who offered these tips to spare your back from the strain of shovelling. 

He shared these with CBC's Mary Wiens while digging out this morning. 

  1. First question: Am I fit enough to shovel? Shovelling snow puts a great strain on the cardiovascular system, if you have doubts, get help. "I'm in my late 30s and even for me, it's a bit of a workout," said Sommers.
  2. Upgrade your shovel. Shovels have evolved beyond the heavy, wooden-handled variety that has hung in your garage since the 1960s. New shovels tend to be lighter, and some come with bent handles that no longer require the repeated up-and-down movements that can hurt your back. "When you're repeatedly going down and coming back up, that's where the danger is," said Sommers. There are also attachments (such as this one) you can add to the old-style shovel to make it more ergonomic. 
  3. Strike while the snow is light. Freshly fallen snow often starts out light and fluffy, then gets heavier the longer it's on the ground. If you get to it early, when it's still powdery, that's a boon to your back. "You want to get the snow off the road before things start to get a little soggy," said Sommers. 
  4. Push the snow, don't lift it. Anything that reduces the stooping and lifting motion is a help. Better to stay upright and push the snow off the sidewalk than bend and lift it by the heaping shovelful. 
  5. Warm up first. By this, Sommers means some light exercise before you start shovelling, not a stint lying by the fire. Starting with some light stretching, or even some light walking, can spare your body some shovelling strain.


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