Do not let the fluffy stuff fool you!! Snow shoveling can be more dangerous than any other activity around your house. Besides the common back strain and muscle soreness, it is not uncommon for people to have heart attacks. This happens as a result of increased heart rate and blood pressure coupled with the body’s natural reflex to the colder temperatures of constriction of arteries and blood vessels. Certain groups of people should not be shoveling such as those who have had previous heart attacks, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or lead a sedentary life. At the very least consult your health practitioner before attempting to shovel.
- Do not smoke or drink coffee as both may increase your heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict.
- Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
- Dress warmly and wear multiple layers to cover as much skin as possible.
- Shovel early and often: New snow is lighter than heavily packed/partially melted snow.
- Start slow with frequent breaks: Shovel for 5-7 minutes and rest 2-3 minutes.
- If possible, wait until the afternoon to shovel, many disc injuries occur in the morning when there is increased fluid pressure in the disc.
- Always try to push snow rather than lifting it.
- When snow is deep, shovel small amounts at a time.
- Stand with feet at hip width for balance.
- Hold the shovel close to your body.
- Space hands apart to increase leverage.
- Bend from your knees not your back.
- If you bend forward while shoveling, the weight of what you are lifting increases by about 10, that’s why it is important to keep back straight while lifting.
- Avoid twisting while lifting.
- Walk to dump snow rather than throwing it.
- Try spraying the blade with a silicone-based lubricant so the snow doesn’t stick to the blade.
- Sturdy yet lightweight is best ( a small plastic blade is better than a large metal blade).
- An ergonomically correct model ( curved handle/wheel assisted) will help prevent against injury and fatigue.