Use Caution When Shoveling Snow

A physician shares safety tips for avoiding injury while shoveling snow.

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CLEVELAND – Many of us are dealing with several inches of snow today. So, what’s the safest way to remove the white stuff from your driveway?

Cleveland Clinic’s Donald Ford, MD, said it’s important to remember that shoveling snow is a strenuous workout.

We have to think of shoveling snow as a pretty significant exertion, like an exercise,” he said. “So if you’re going out to exercise, people who have heart conditions or people who have risk for heart conditions, may need to talk to their doctor before they engage in that.”

Dr. Ford said people with heart disease risk factors – like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes should talk with their doctor about whether or not snow shoveling is recommended, and if it is – how much is safe for heart health?

He said taking frequent breaks to rest is always a good idea.

And, just like exercise, you’ll want to warm up before shoveling – even if you’re in good shape and your doctor says it’s okay.

He recommends stretching out muscles in your back, arms, shoulders and legs.

He also suggests a brief aerobic warmup to get the blood flowing – walking in place, hopping up and down, or even a few minutes on the treadmill will help.

And remember, once you’re outside, lift with your legs not your back.

“Make sure you’re lifting from the center. Keeping your body upright, not reaching over,” said Dr. Ford.

“Make sure that you can throw the snow in front of you. Don’t try to throw it over your shoulder or to the side because that’s when people really start to get those back injuries, shoulder injuries, and so forth.” 

Dr. Ford said an ergonomic shovel – one with a longer, bent handle – may help prevent back pain because it allows you to stand straighter and you won’t have to bend over as far to reach the snow.


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