Snow Shoveling Safely
We are all aware that snow shoveling is hard work, and the more snow there is and the "wetter" it is, shoveling becomes extremely challenging. There's no shortage of emergency room statistics that show us, shoveling can cause cardiac arrest if a person is not careful. What emergency rooms do not show are the enormous numbers of injuries that occur. Shoveling snow should be treated in the same manner as if you were to engage in any athletic or exercise program in order to protect yourself.
In January 2011, the results of a seventeen-year study were published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and the results were astounding. This study reveals that the most common injury when removing snow (either with a shovel or by using a snow blower) is to the soft tissue; the majority of all injuries are soft tissue injuries such as damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons. The lower back was the most frequently injured, followed by the arms and the hands. Twenty percent of injuries were directly related to slipping or falling as a result of being outside to snow hoveling and shockingly, 15 percent of injuries were the result of being struck by a snow shovel.
Snow shoveling safety needs to be taken seriously in order to avoid becoming a statistic. Here are some tips to help you minimize, if not eliminate any chance of sustaining an injury:
- First and most important, if you have already had a heart attack or have a history of heart disease, have high blood pressure or have high cholesterol levels, do not attempt shoveling unless your doctor approves.
- Drink lots of water before starting. Have some water available because shoveling is physical exercise and avoiding dehydration is important. (When you feel thirsty, your body has already started to dehydrate.)
- Wear appropriate footwear.
- Shovel at least one hour after eating and if you are a smoker, avoid doing so before or during shoveling.
- Warm up first by stretching your shoulders, arms, hands, legs and back.
- Start slow and it is advisable to work at a slow pace – don't be in a hurry because this is when an injury is most likely to occur.
- Shovel early in a snowfall, and often if need be – better that than waiting for all 30 cm of wet heavy snow to fall!
- Take breaks.
Snow Shoveling Techniques:
- Pushing the snow rather than lifting it is best.
- When shoveling deep snow, shovel it in small amounts.
- If you know the ground is icy or slippery, toss down some kitty litter, sand, salt or anything else that is safe to use for the ground that will provide you with traction.
- Lift properly by – keeping feet at hip width – hold the shovel close to your body – space your hands apart to increase your leveraging – tighten up your abdominal muscles while lifting – avoid twisting when lifting – walk to dump the snow; do not toss – and perhaps the most important – bend at your knees not your back!
Chiro-Med Rehab Centre: Reminders
In the event you start to feel heaviness or discomfort in the arms, neck or chest areas, stop shoveling immediately. If it does not subside right away, call 911. Other signs of heart attack to be aware of include a prolonged shortness of breath, dizziness, faintness, excessive sweating, or if you begin to vomit.
Do not work yourself to the point of exhaustion because this contributes to injury, hypothermia and to possible frostbite.
Should you sustain any soft tissue injury while shoveling – stop shoveling right away! If you cannot move or are in serious pain, call 911. If the injury isn't as severe, then see a health professional as soon as possible. Should there be any inflammation, apply ice right away.
Snow Shoveling Benefits
The good news about safely shoveling snow is that fifteen minutes of shoveling counts as a moderate physical workout. Although recommendations vary among agencies, between (minimum) 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly is essential to good health. If winter brings us lots of snow, then you get lots of fresh air and exercise – without paying for a gym membership.
More good news! Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has worked with countless patients who have sustained injuries due to snow shoveling. Our Rehab Centre has fully qualified professionals that will work with you to minimize the pain and to help get you back to your usual self. Hopefully you won't get injured this winter, but in the unfortunate event you do, call us right away.