With the upcoming snow season fastly approaching us, it’s time to prepare for the dreaded chore of shoveling the driveway. Most of don’t really think shoveling snow as exercise, but some health experts say shoveling snow can be as strenuous as running 9-MPH. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, approximately 11,500 people will visit the emergency room each year with injuries due to injuries from shoveling snow.
Majority of these injuries tend to be soft tissue injuries to the lower back or shoulders. With that in mind, here are some injury prevention tips:
1. Check with your doctor. Cardiac related issues are the most serious type of injury that can occur. Fifteen minutes of snow shoveling counts for moderate physical activity. The combination of increased physical activity and colder weather can put a great strain on the heart. People over the age 55 are 4-times more likely to experience heart-related symptoms while shoveling snow.
2. Stretch and Dress Warm. Always start with a short little warm-up with stretches for the shoulders and lower back prior to shoveling. In addition, timing is everything. More injuries tend to happen in the morning as compared to the afternoon as your body is not properly warmed up. Dress in layers so your muscles will stay warm and flexible. If you get to hot, then you can shed a layer at a time.
3. Use a Comfortable Shovel. With lots of shovels on the market, choosing the correct one is important. A shovel with a smaller blade limits the amount of snow which will put less strain on your body. You can also use car wax on the blade of your shovel to prevent snow from sticking to it.
4. Don’t Lift….Push. Push the snow whenever possible. When lifting, make sure you bend your knees to lift with your legs and keep your back straight. You NEVER want to twist your upper body to throw snow. You may also try altering the distance of your hands to create better leverage. Remember…stay within your abilities and take breaks to prevent you from over doing it.
5. Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking lots of water helps your muscles and body hydrated to prevent injury. Avoid coffee or beverages high in caffeine as they tend to dehydrate the body.
6. Stay Within Your Abilities. You are your best doctor…so listen to your body. If you do overdo it, make sure you follow up with your doctor or chiropractor. Stop if you start to notice any chest pain or shoulder pain, pain in the neck or arms, dizziness, fainting, sweating nausea or shortness of breath as these are possible signs of a heart attack. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you are having a heart attack.
Following these simple tips will decrease your chance of injury, but of course injuries still happen. If you have previous heart or back injury, you should consider having someone else do your shoveling as it is not worth chance.