Winter is quickly approaching, and many of us are looking forward to a good snowstorm. While snow shoveling doesn’t exactly top anyone’s list of favorite winter pastimes, it is often an unavoidable necessity for those of us living in colder climates.

Like other winter activities, snow shoveling poses unique risks and dangers. Each year, about 11,500 people end up in the emergency room due to snow shoveling-related injuries. The most common injuries are lower back injuries. No one wants to spend their snow day in the emergency room, so be sure to take some precautions to reduce your risk of injury.

Try clearing snow periodically throughout the storm rather than all at once. Although this means multiple trips, these trips will be easier and lighter. If you can’t shovel throughout the storm, shovel as early as possible. Snow is lightest and fluffiest when it first falls. The longer you wait to shovel, the heavier the snow will be.

Consider your equipment when shoveling. Choose an ergonomically designed shovel to take stress off of your back and body. The shovel should have an angled handle and a wide scoop. Choose a lighter shovel that is easy to lift, such as one made of plastic.

Shoveling snow is a strenuous activity. If you do not exercise on a regular basis or have heart disease or high blood pressure, check with your doctor before doing any shoveling. If you feel you are not able to shovel, don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor or family member to help. You can also consider using ice melt or a snow blower to make the job a little bit easier. Check out the tips below for some more safe shoveling strategies.

Shoveling Safety Tips

  • Warm up – Try doing some light stretches to warm up your muscles.
  • Wear appropriate attire – Layer up and wear proper footwear to prevent slipping.
  • Push, don’t lift – This will reduce pressure on your back. When you do have to lift, be sure to bend your knees and lift with your legs instead of your back.
  • Take frequent breaks – Rest and drink water after about 20 minutes of shoveling, or whenever you feel you need a break. If you have chest pain or feel short of breath, seek medical attention immediately.

Sources: Center for Injury Research and Policy. Lifework Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.