With the winter weather ramping up, many residents are concerned about how they will be able to deal with what the storms bring in.
You may have stocked your pantry in preparation for being snowed in, and gathered extra supplies in case the power gets knocked out, but now it's time to stretch those muscles to deal with a particular task winter hurls at us every year.
"If you're not a regular exerciser or you're in poor physical shape, your body won't be prepared for the stress of shoveling snow and you increase your chances of sustaining muscle pulls, back injuries, and strains," said Dr. Susan Wainwright, vice chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. "Snow shoveling can also strain the heart and cause potentially life threatening injuries, such as a heart attack."
More than 118,000 people were treated in 2007 as a result of injures related to shoveling snow and ice in the United States.
There are many areas of your body that are impacted while you are out shoveling snow this winter. It's important to be mindful and use these tips to prevent yourself from being injured.
Protect Your Back
Start by stretching before you head outside. This will help loosen your muscles so you don't stiffen up while hauling snow.
Shovel just after the snow starts falling and head out frequently so it doesn't accumulate too much. The lighter loads are easier to maneuver and lessens the risk that you will get hurt.
Always push the snow, instead of lifting it. Lifting it can put unncessary strain on your back.
Look at your hand placement. Two hands spread apart will make it an easier job.
Keep an eye on your form. Don't round your lower back, even if you do it without noticing. This position can shut off the powerful muscles of your core and shift the stress to the small muscles that can cause pain. Also avoid twisting into unnatural positions to throw the snow to the side. These motions can be dangerous for your back.
Watch Your Heart
Pace yourself while shoveling. Head out for only 15-20 minutes at a time before taking a break. When it's cold out, you may not notice yourself sweat. Take frequent water breaks because you could become dehydrated easily.
Since shoveling is an upper body workout, it puts a lot of strain on your heart compared to walking and other cardio exercises.
Take notice of heart attack warning signs, including increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating and tightness in the chest.
Lifting snow can really damage your shoulders, so make sure you're pushing it instead. Avoid the biggest mistake of bending at the waist or through your back. Instead, practice those squats and use your legs to move the snow.
Make sure you are using the right snow shovel for you. If it doesn't match your height or strength, find a different one. Keep an eye out for ergonomically designed snow shovels that may have a curved handle to reduce stress on your body.
Most wrist injuries result from not stabilizing your wrists before you start lifting snow that may be heavier than it appears. Make sure you are wearing proper gloves. If your hands are too cold, it will affect your grip. Alternatively if your gloves are too bulky, your shovel will be too difficult to hold.
Keep in mind, your wrists shouldn't be doing the work. If you notice yourself bending or twisting your wrists, adjust your form to avoid injury.
When you're out in winter weather, you're putting yourself at risk for frostbite. Make sure you wear layers and that your nose, toes and fingers are all well-covered and dry. Frostbite affects these appendages first, so making sure they're properly covered is your best defense.
In subzero temperatures, frostbite can occur in less than 30 minutes.
“If it is 28 or 30 degrees outside, it'll take longer,” Rittenberger said. “Once you are wet, the water helps dissipate heat from the body even faster; that is the disadvantage of being out in the cold [snow].”
Have you ever hurt yourself shoveling?