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It's Snow Time: Self-Care Tips for Shovelers

Winter shoveling can lead to aches and pains. Use self-care techniques to help alleviate them!
Winter shoveling can lead to aches and pains. Use self-care techniques to help alleviate them!

It's no secret that Michiganders get their fair share of snow. Whether you're on Jefferson in Downtown Detroit or on Woodward in Bloomfield Hills, you're going to encounter accumulating snow several times a year. Even though snow is not a surprise, as the snow piles up, prospective snow shovelers all around southeast Michigan let out a collective groan.

Shoveling can be excellent exercise, but it can also brings with it aches and pains in the hours and days that follow. Eldon Faulkner, a lifelong Michigan resident, said, "[Shoveling] kills your lower back and shoulders, but you really don't feel it until the next day."

Eldon isn't alone in his post-shoveling plight! Luckily, going forward he can use some of these self-care massage tips to alleviate some of the pain:

  1. Before snow shoveling, try warming up! Doing some light walking in place and very gentle stretching prior to picking up the shovel can help ward off pain later.
  2. During snow shoveling, lift heavy snow using your knees (like a reverse squat exercise) instead of your shoulders and back (see video). Take frequent breaks to avoid strain.
  3. After shoveling, try cooling down as you warm up! Once you have come inside, give your muscles a stretch once again. Jason Castleman, a Royal Oak-based massage therapist, noted, “Make sure afterward not to go back inside, straight to the couch. Stretch the areas you used like your legs, low back, and arms.
  4. Once you have stretched and rested, you can address areas like sore hands from gripping the shovel by using your right hand to grasp and rub at the base of the thumb, down each finger, and at the wrist. (For a video, click here.)
  5. If you have sore feet, you can try soaking your feet in warm water or rolling them within your tolerance over reflexology foot massage balls.
  6. Lastly, for a sore back, neck or shoulders, you can take a warm shower and allow the water to run over the sore areas. You can also apply moist heat with a microwavable heat pack to soothe sore areas of the back or neck.

If you practice these tips and still feel a general achiness, make sure to find a qualified, local massage therapy practitioner who can concentrate on those areas that bring you pain. Always make sure to tell your massage therapist that you have been shoveling snow, which will help him or her to devise an appropriate plan for your massage.

Please note: If you shovel snow and are in severe pain, feel tightness in your chest, or just “don’t feel right,” go to the doctor immediately. These tips never replace a doctor’s medical advice or care.


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