While most people regard snow shoveling as a tedious burden, few realize that it can also pose serious health risks including painful back injuries and fatal heart attacks. Intense physical exertion can be especially dangerous in cold temperatures, especially if you are overweight or out of shape. For this reason, it’s important consider the following guidelines when shoveling snow during the winter.
• Warm up your muscles. Before you start shoveling, do some light movements to limber up your muscles and get your blood flowing.
• Push the snow. Avoid back injuries by pushing snow instead of lifting it.
• Bend your knees. If you must lift snow, be sure to bend your knees and lift with your legs, being careful not to put too much strain on your back.
• Pace yourself. Make sure to take as many breaks as you need, especially if the snow is wet and heavy.
• Break things up. If possible, consider shoveling periodically throughout a snow storm to prevent excessive buildup.
• Don’t delay. Try to shovel soon after a storm, while the snow is still fluffy and light.
• Drink water. Make sure you stay hydrated, so your body will be able to effectively regulate your internal temperature.
• Use an efficient shovel. Choose an ergonomically-designed plastic shovel, instead of a heavy metal product. You should also make sure the shovel is long enough, so you won’t have to constantly stoop.
• Wear the right clothing. Usually, people tend to work up a sweat when shoveling snow. For this reason, it’s a good idea to dress in layers, so you can strip off clothing as your body temperature rises. That said, you should always wear a hat and gloves, even if you don’t feel like you need them. You should also wear boots or shoes with slip-resistant soles.
Our team at PhysicianOne Urgent Care is available on a walk-in basis to treat minor injuries. If you think you have suffered a minor injury while shoveling, PhysicianOne Urgent Care can assess and treat. Find a location near you.