Shoveling snow is a reality of winter for many people around the world. There’s a lot of information available on proper body mechanics to avoid back injuries while shoveling snow. But, unfortunately, there aren’t many helpful hints for anyone who happens to be recovering from tennis elbow and there are some things to know before grabbing your shovel and heading outside. So, if you are recovering from tennis elbow, and have no other options for getting your sidewalk or driveway cleared, read on!
First of all, shoveling snow is a strenuous activity, so be sure your back, heart and arms are up to the task before even considering shoveling your sidewalk. Warm up your muscles before getting started. Specifically with tennis elbow, it’s important to do forearm stretches. Holding your arm out in front of you, with your palm down, place your other hand on the back of your hand, and apply gentle pressure, bending the wrist towards the floor, stretching the forearm extensor muscles. Hold this position up to 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times. Now rotate the extended arm so the palm is up, and apply pressure through the palm with your other hand, again bending the wrist towards the floor, and hold 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. These stretches are good to do when you’ve finished shoveling as well.
Now, let’s take a look at shovels. The lighter the shovel, the less stress on your arm and back. Curved handles help to keep your back straighter, enabling you to generate power through the legs and core. There are also shovels that have a “U” shaped handle, allowing you to push the show, using both arms equally, thus distributing the force between both arms. With tennis elbow, it’s important to keep your elbows bent and as close to the body as possible. This lessens the stress to the elbows compared to pushing the shovel with the elbows straight. Also, keep your grip light. The lighter the grip, the less strain at the elbow.
Take small scoops when shoveling, especially if the snow is wet and heavy. Break the job up into small sections, and take frequent breaks, doing a few forearm stretches. If you have a forearm strap, or band, wear it when shoveling. Remember to keep your core strong, engaging shoulder, and shoulder blade muscles, which are larger and stronger than forearm muscles.
One thing you NEVER want to do is chip away ice. This is extremely aggravating to the elbow. The forceful gripping, lifting, and jarring actions are a deadly combination if you have tennis elbow.
When you’re finished shoveling, if you have any elbow soreness, apply a cold pack, or put some snow in a baggie, wrapped in a pillowcase, to your elbow for 8 to 10 minutes. This helps decrease inflammation. Remember to listen to your body and respect what it’s telling you!