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How to Prevent Injuries While Shoveling

Shoveling snow can be a great way to get some exercise and keep your walkways and driveway clear, but it's important to do it safely to avoid injuries. According to the National Safety Council, nationwide, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year.

In this blog, we'll discuss some tips on how to prevent injuries when shoveling, including:

  • How to choose the right shovel
  • How to use the right shoveling technique
  • How to pace yourself while shoveling
  • Additional tips for people with health conditions

Most Common Shoveling Injuries

Shoveling snow can be a necessary chore, but it's important to be aware of the potential for injuries. Here are some of the most common injuries associated with shoveling snow:

  • Back injuries: Strains and sprains are the most common injuries associated with shoveling snow. They occur when muscles or ligaments are stretched or torn, often due to improper lifting techniques. Herniated discs can also occur when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a tear in the outer ring. It can cause severe pain, numbness, and weakness.
  • Shoulder injuries: Rotator cuff tears are tears in the tendons or muscles that hold the shoulder joint in place. It can cause pain, weakness, and difficulty moving the arm. Bursitis can also occur, resulting in inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that cushions the joints.
  • Hand and wrist injuries: Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and wrist. It is caused by compression of the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Tendonitis can also occur, resulting in the tendon’s inflammation, which connects muscles to bones.
  • Cuts and bruises: These can occur from falls on ice or from slipping while shoveling. It's important to clean cuts and bruises immediately to prevent infection.
  • Heart attacks and strokes: Shoveling snow can be particularly strenuous for people with heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions. It's important to be aware of your limitations and take breaks when needed.

How to Choose the Right Shovel

  • Size: Choose a shovel that is the right size for you. The blade should be wide enough to clear the snow in one scoop, and the handle should be long enough so that you don't have to bend over too much.
  • Weight: Choose a shovel that is lightweight and easy to maneuver. A heavier shovel will tire you faster and increase your risk of injury.
  • Material: Choose a shovel that is made of a durable material that can withstand the cold and the weight of the snow.

How to Use the Right Shoveling Technique

  • Warm-up: Before shoveling, take some time to warm up your muscles with light stretching or walking.
  • Proper lifting: Squat down and lift with your legs, not your back. Keep your back straight and avoid twisting.
  • Push, don't throw: Instead of throwing the snow, push it with the shovel. This will help you avoid twisting your back.

How to Pace Yourself While Shoveling

  • Start slow: Don't try to shovel too much snow too quickly. Start with a small area and gradually work your way up.
  • Dress warmly: Dress in layers of warm clothing to stay warm and prevent hypothermia.
  • Take breaks: Don't try to shovel the entire driveway in one go. Take breaks every 15-20 minutes to rest and rehydrate.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after shoveling.

Additional Shoveling Tips for People with Health Conditions

  • If you have a heart condition: Talk to your doctor before shoveling snow. Shoveling can increase your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • If you have back pain: Use a lightweight shovel and avoid twisting your back. Take frequent breaks and use proper lifting techniques.
  • If you are pregnant: Avoid shoveling snow if possible. If you must shovel, talk to your doctor first.

If you are unable to shovel snow yourself, consider hiring a snow removal service or investing in a snowblower to remove large amounts of snow with less effort. Following these tips can help prevent injuries while shoveling snow and allow you to enjoy a safe and healthy winter.

If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain, a National Spine & Pain Centers affiliated pain management specialist can help. They will develop a treatment plan to ease your pain by getting to the root of the problem.

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