Every year, tens of thousands of people end up in emergency rooms due to shoveling injuries. Heart attacks and back or joint injuries are the most common complaints.
Here are some tips for shoveling snow safely:
- If you are generally inactive or have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before shoveling snow.
- Don’t smoke or drink coffee before shoveling. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can add extra stress to the heart.
- Dress in several layers so you can remove some as your body heat rises.
- Warm up and stretch your muscles before beginning to shovel to help prevent strains and pulls.
- Learn to lift correctly, using your knees instead of your back. The best form is to stand with your feet spread to about shoulder width for balance. As you lift the snow, keep the shovel close to your body and tighten your stomach muscles for extra support.
- Avoid twisting your torso. Instead, turn your whole body to face the direction you want the snow to go.
- Creating distance between your hands will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift the snow.
- Pick up smaller loads of snow. If you have a deep snowfall, just clear away a few inches at a time, going deeper over time.
- Pace yourself and take frequent breaks. It’s not a race! If you feel pain, stop what you’re doing and go back to it later. If you experience any heart attack warning signs, such as chest, shoulder, neck or arm pain, dizziness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath, seek medical attention immediately.
With these guidelines in mind, winter can be a wonderland, instead of a nightmare this year.
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.