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Cascade Quarterly News Archives
Winter 2013 - Volume 7, Issue 4

Feature Article: Snow Shoveling Safety

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In this issue:

1) The Sport of a Chore
2) Suggested stretching routine
3) What is the right way to shovel?
4) Massage Therapy for Wellness
5) Give the Gift of Massage!
6) About Cascade Massage Therapy

1) The Sport of a Chore

What do I mean by this title: the sport of a chore? Well, I try to look at daily chores as I do sports. Meaning, there is a need for a warm up period prior to the physical labour, there is a need for proper ergonomics and biomechanics within the activity, and there is an equally important, though often ignored cool down period required after the activity.

So how does one warm up for snow shoveling, protect their body during the task and also cool down properly?

  • Be sure you are hydrated, just having a glass of water before you put on your snow boots is enough (remember: caffeinated beverages don't count as water!).
  • Stretch a little, gently, and not too fully. Just enough to wake up your muscles and get the circulatory system ready for physical work. Save the deeper stretching for after you are done shoveling. Yes, it is important to have a stretch after as well!
  • Give yourself enough time to do the task. Once the snow flies we are often in a frenzy, having to get up a little earlier each morning, or having to clear the driveway and sidewalks at the end of a tiring workday. Though it can seem like a drudgery, try to look at it like a meditation and simply be present in the moment, present in the task at hand, and give this task the same attention and focus you would any other important task in your day. When we are rushed, we make mistakes. When we are rushed, we get frustrated with the activity. So let this gentle reminder let you set the alarm 20 minutes early, or help you to take a breath and be patient with the beauty of snow removal at the end of your day!
  • Use proper biomechanics for shoveling. Every day in the winter I see people at risk of a lumbar strain or sprain when they are shovelling their snow. I cringe when I witness the abuse that people put their backs through while doing this task! Click here for details on some tips to help keep you safe when shoveling.
  • Be careful not to overload your shovel. We all do this when we are moving quickly at the job! Have realistic expectations for your body size and strength. I am a petite woman and it is often a laugh when my 6 foot tall, stocky husband and I are shoveling together because he laughs at the size of my shovel loads compared to his. However, we get the job done, my body is safe from harm and it all works out in the end. When the momentum gets your blood moving and you notice your shovel load size increasing, remember to back off a little – even if you consider yourself to be ‘big and strong’. Don't let this fatal mistake turn into an injury!
  • Do it sooner than later! The snow is more compact and heavier after it sits overnight. Ideally you'll want to do your shoveling at your earliest convenience so as to lighten the load on your shovel!
  • Take a break if you need to. When you start to feel some strain, that is your cue to take a little break. You may only need 5-10 minutes rest before getting back to it. The tendency to just plough through in order to get the job done is often what lands you in my office the very next day complaining of a low back strain. Stop to take a few deep breaths at the point of enough - whenever that is for you - and your body will appreciate that you have paid attention and reward you by serving you better for the duration of the task and the rest of your day.
  • Stretch again when you are done. * see below for stretching handout
  • Re-hydrate with another glass of water or some warm herbal tea!

2) Suggested stretching routineStretching

Here is a stretching handout that I often recommend to clients who are proactive about snow shovelling safety:

Safety Note on stretching: You should feel a slight tightening in the area being stretched; it should be a comfortable sensation and you'll want to hold the position for about 20 seconds in order to let the muscles truly unwind. If you feel pain when stretching, stop!

Discuss your stretching with your Massage Therapist so that he or she can offer you advice on how to best achieve your goals.

3)What is the right way to shovel?

Some tips:

  • a neutral spine is key; avoid bending, lifting and twisting! Focus on maintaining a straight back when moving from the squat position of the initial push of snow, to the upright position of the toss of snow
  • Get grounded in your foundation, maintain a solid core and plant your feet well with each step. Use the strength of your larger leg muscles to your advantage. Sometimes it is helpful to use your legs to help push the shovel full of wetter snow. (this is especially the case if someone has shoulder injuries or weakness!)
  • The muscles of your shoulders and back are larger and stronger than those of your forearms. With proper posture, you should feel the majority of the effort coming from these larger muscle groups.
  • Use a snow shovel that fits your body and is strong enough for the job. You are only as good as your tools!
  • Remember the physics of leverage: The load will lighten by keeping one hand closer to the shovel blade.
    Please note:
    Biomechanics is an extensive topic and though these are some basic rules of thumb, it is also a personal experience because everyone's body is different. People have old injuries to think about, chronic health conditions to deal with and various body sizes and shapes to work with. So, remember these guidelines are not set of 1-size-fits-all rules; when in doubt, please discuss your individual needs with your Massage Therapist to be sure your personalized safety is accounted for in then task of snow shoveling.

4) Massage Therapy for Wellness

I hope these snow shoveling tips have inspired you to be safe when the snow shoveling sports begin!

Remember, I am here to help you stay well. It is my pleasure to offer you caring, professional and therapeutic bodywork treatments so that your body may be in optimal health, recover from injury faster, deal with chronic ailments easier and enable you to do the things you like to do in life.

One of the best way to keep your body flexible and pain free during this winter season of snow shoveling, is to incorporate regular massage therapy treatments into your life! Click here to reserve your next appointment. Let me help you to maintain wellness, soothe tired muscles, clear your mind and uplift your spirit!

Benefits of Massage Therapy with me:

Physical Benefits of Massage

  • Pain relief!
  • Balances the nervous system; relieves stress and aids relaxation
  • Decreases muscle tension and stiffness; daily activities are once again enjoyable when your body movements are eased
  • Promotes faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments
  • Provides greater joint flexibility and range of motion, allowing you to do more of the things you enjoy!
  • Enhances athletic performance
  • Speeds healing after surgery or injuries; reduces pain and swelling; lessens formation of excessive scar tissue
  • Promotes deeper and easier breathing; overall wellness and revitalization is enhanced when your body tissues receive adequate oxygen
  • Improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids; strengthens the immune system
  • Enhances the health and nourishment of skin; a glowing complexion is revealed!
  • Improves posture; proper distribution of weight on your joints will refine each and every movement and position required of you in your day!

Mental Benefits of Massage Therapy

  • Cultivates a relaxed state of mental alertness
  • Relieves mental stress; enhances your capacity for calm thinking and creativity
  • Encourages your awareness and appreciation of the mind-body connection
  • Improves your ability to monitor stress signals as they arise and respond appropriately

Emotional Benefits

  • lessen anxiety
  • alleviate depression
  • revitalize your busy mind
  • find solace in the hectic pace of our society
  • increase your overall sense of well-being
  • empower yourself by receiving education, resources and self-care tips from your massage therapist

As your Registered Massage Therapist, I am happy to help you to achieve and maintain wellness. Whether your aim is to free from pain or discomfort, improve freedom in movement, manage the symptoms or a chronic illness, air some of your concerns, or to enjoy relaxation in your body, mind and spirit - I am here to facilitate for you. Your personal healthcare goals will be heard and addressed to the best of my abilities via the art of release through bodywork.

Click here to access my online schedule and find an appointment time that suits you. Or you are welcome to call me if you prefer to book your appointment by phone.

5) Give the Gift of Massage!

Massage Therapy is a thoughtful, soothing gift to give. Whether for a ‘holiday greeting’, a ‘birthday celebration’, a ‘thank you’ or a ‘just because’, you can be assured that I will take good care of the recipient of your gift!

Yes, gift certificates are available. Click here to purchase your gift certificate online, where your payment can be securely made via paypal. Your gift certificate can either be mailed or emailed to the recipient, or you are welcome to come pick it up at my office. You are also welcome to call me at 250-550-4727 if you prefer to purchase your gift certificate by phone.

6) About Cascade Massage Therapy

My Approach

  • I bring over 18 years of bodywork experience and education to the massage table!
  • I offer you diverse and comprehensive massage therapy sessions. Your treatment goals are foremost and your needs will be heard and addressed.
  • I utilize both traditional and complementary treatment techniques, and recommend self care tips and exercise options that evolve with your individual healing process.
  • This is your time - I encourage you to enjoy the stillness of your session, and sense the changes occurring in your body while we work - you don’t need to be entertaining or start a conversation; that being said, please recognize that I do not read minds. I expect my clients to participate in his or her experience and give feedback as needed during the treatment.
  • Cascade Massage Therapy is focused on education and prevention. It is important that you know what you can do to help prevent stress, tension, and pain when you are not with me. I allow for time at the end of our session to converse, suggest self care tips and exercises that would be beneficial for you, and answer any questions that you may have.
  • I believe that prolonged stress, whether environmental, physical or emotional is a primary factor in dis-ease and a true obstacle to healing. Therefore, I welcome you to a peace-filled and relaxing environment where you can experience relief from pain and tension.

Sonja Rawlings, RMT
Associate Member Ortho-Bionomy Association of Canada

1601 – 30th Avenue
Vernon, BC V1T 2A3



If you have specific health concerns consult your medical doctor.

The information in this newsletter is educational only and is not intended to replace the advice of your personal health care providers.

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Office located in Vernon, BC, Canada. Serving Vernon, Coldstream,
Lavington, Armstrong, Lumby, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Chase,
Falkland, Kelowna and the rest of the Okanagan.