If you’re like most of us, you’re all too familiar with the backbreaking work of shoveling snow – not to mention the stress of having to shovel all over again after the plow comes through! Shoveling snow is hard on your body; it can make your arms and legs sore or give you significant back pain from the constant bending and twisting. Muscle soreness is normal after such strenuous activity, and it typically dissipates within a few days. However, there are some steps you can take to feel better sooner.
Apply Heat – or Ice
Applying heat to sore muscles helps them relax and heal. One of the best ways to relieve a sore back is by taking a warm bath with a capful of Epsom salt tossed into the water. The warmth of the water chases away the chills and helps you relax, while the Epsom salt adds magnesium, which your body absorbs. The magnesium can then help relieve swollen muscles by flushing out lactic acid, which can build up during snow shoveling and other types of physical exertion.
Another option is to apply ice, which is especially helpful in the first day or two following an injury. An ice pack applied to the painful area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Try it for 20 minutes at a time, keeping a towel between your skin and the ice pack. For best results, alternate between ice and heat to relieve pain and then increase blood flow.
Exercise – Gently
It may sound counterintuitive, but complete rest isn’t always the best way to recover. Gentle workouts such as short walks or even foam rolling sessions can keep you from becoming stiff and relieve soreness. Foam rollers are especially helpful because they essentially massage your muscles, providing pressure to specific areas to soothe tenderness and stiffness. This may also help maximize your range of motion and help your muscles stay elastic and healthy.
Do avoid exercises that may aggravate back pain. Some of these include toe touches, sit-ups, and leg lifts. Try activities that focus on gentle stretches such as Pilates, swimming, pelvic tilts, bringing your knees to your chest, and hamstring stretches. In general, if it hurts, don’t do it, but don’t be afraid to move your body – it will help in the long run.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating healthy is always important, but even more so before and after a session of shoveling snow. The types of food you choose can make a difference when it comes to muscle recovery. Eating a diet rich in protein and complex carbs before shoveling could save you from muscle soreness or at least minimize its intensity. Protein and complex carbs help your muscles by supplying the amino acids, and hydration muscles need to stay healthy and recover quickly.
If you have back pain that lasts more than a couple of days after shoveling snow, it’s time to see your healthcare provider about non-invasive treatments such as physical therapy, deep tissue massage, or chiropractic care. At Redefine Healthcare, we have a team of premier, board-certified specialists who can help – feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment.