When winter comes around, shoveling snow is a necessity. However, if done incorrectly, you can cause yourself serious harm. A 17-year study was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, with results stating that 11,000 people had been hospitalized per year due to snow shoveling accidents.

The most common injuries include slipping and falling and overexertion leading to heart attacks or strained muscles. In order to minimize your risk of injury, follow these guidelines from the National Safety Council.

  • Push the snow away from the area you intend to clear with your shovel instead of lifting it. This can decrease the likelihood of losing balance or straining yourself.
  • If you do decide to lift, don’t heap your shovel with full loads of snow. It may take longer to scoop less at a time, but your muscles will thank you for not straining them. Along the same lines, lift with your knees, not your back. Your legs are far stronger than your back muscles.
  • Do not shovel immediately after smoking or eating a heavy meal, as this increases the risk of a heart attack—particularly for people over the age of 40.
  • Warm-up before taking on the elements. Take the time to stretch and loosen up your muscles.
  • Only shovel new, powdery snow. It’s lighter and less condensed.
  • No matter how badly you want to finish, do not work yourself to the point of exhaustion. Colder temperatures force your muscles to work harder than usual to complete physical tasks.
  • Know the symptoms of a heart attack, which include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, cold sweat, and sudden dizziness or lightheadedness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, cease shoveling and call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to “power through” it.

If you do suffer an injury, be sure to call us and make an appointment. Exercise can assist in the healing process more than you might think, and we’re more than happy to help. Find a location near you.