Six Tips For Safer Snow Shoveling

Jan 16, 2014 - Winter is here and so is the snow, which means shoveling.  Snow shoveling can be just as physically taxing as any sport 

or exercise routine. Research has shown that, on average, snow shoveling-related injuries account for 11,500 emergency room visits per year in the US.  Here are a few tips to help keep you safe this winter season.

Warm Up: Athletes do it to help prepare and to help avoid injury, and so should you. A few stretches for the arms, legs, and back, as well as a few steps in place to raise your heart rate will help prepare the body by loosening up your muscles, increasing your body temperature, and getting your heart ready for the exercise to come.

Proper Dress: Dress in layers so you have the option to remove clothing as you work. One heavy layer could cause overheating, which stresses the heart. Don’t forget your hat and gloves, as these items will help maintain your body temperature, especially when winter winds gust.

Good Form: Remember to breathe, bend your knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, and use your arms and legs to help when lifting the snow to protect your back. Better yet, push the snow, rather than lift it. A plastic snow shovel may also be lighter than a metal shovel, again decreasing the weight lifted or pushed. Also, avoid twisting while your feet are planted, as this motion is very stressful on your back.

Proper Pacing: Take frequent breaks and your body will thank you for it. If you know that you are in for a large snowfall, get out early and shovel while the snow is manageable. You may have to go back out for round 2; however, shoveling a lighter load is much safer. 

Things to Avoid: Avoid caffeine or nicotine before you start. These are stimulants, which may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict. Also avoid large meals before or after shoveling, as this places extra stress on the heart. Also, drink plenty of water. You may be working up a sweat shoveling, and dehydration is just as big an issue in cold winter months as it is in the summer.

Listen to Your Body: Stop shoveling if you feel chest, shoulder, neck or arm pain; dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea; or shortness of breath. If you think you're having a heart attack, seek medical help immediately.

During the winter months, if you become injured and need physical therapy, Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) Rehabilitation Services is here to help. ECHN’s Rehabilitation Services offers a comprehensive range of accessible services and convenient hours, ranging from early morning to early evening (Monday-Friday). ECHN also participates in a number of insurance plans, including but not limited to, Medicare, Medicaid (all plans), Cigna, BC, ConnectiCare, Healthnet and Aetna. If you would like more information on how to regain or improve your movement through physical therapy, please contact any one of the locations listed below for any questions regarding services at ECHN or to schedule an appointment:

Our Convenient Locations

Manchester Memorial Hospital 

Rockville General Hospital 

The Rehab Center at Big Sky Fitness

ECHN rehabilitation Services at the Glastonbury Wellness Center 

ECHN Rehabilitation Services at Evergreen Walk 

ECHN Rehabilitation Services at the Ellington Y