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Injury Prevention & Treatment

Cold Comfort: Snow Shoveling Tips

Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy while fighting the elements and shoveling the driveway and walkways.

Keep yourself hydrated.  You may be surprised to know that your body uses more water in winter than in the summer. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to keep warm, and the heat generated to maintain a stable temperature uses up moisture.  Drink plenty of water, and avoid coffee, non-herbal tea and soda as caffeine is dehydrating.

Dress in layers for thermal protection.  You can peel them off as your body heats up.  You’ll want to keep dry, too—especially your feet–since wetness intensifies the damage cold weather does to your body.  Wear a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, and good quality socks—and even sock liners–and water proof footwear to keep feet warm and dry.

Don’t forget your face, ears, and eyes.  UV protection is important, and good polarized sunglasses will prevent “snow blinding” as the sun glares off snow.  Use goggles to prevent wind chill.  Because the nose and ears are easily frostbitten and cold air breathed into lungs is harmful, wear a facemask if you expect to be outside for any length of time or when the temperature drops below 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be sure to stretch and warm up before working outdoors, as cold muscles are more easily injured.  Then afterwards stretch and cool down.

Stay ahead of the game.it’s easier to remove snow in thin layers than wait until all the snow has fallen.  With major storms like Juno, try to get out and shovel in several passes.

An ergonomic snow shovel will make it easier on your body.  One with a curved handle or an adjustable-length handle will minimize bending while keeping the shovel blade on the ground.  Choose a smaller, lighter model to prevent strain and injury, and use your knees to lift instead of your back.

Be mindful to maintain proper posture:

–Use your leg muscles as much as possible, pushing the snow when you can.  Use your legs to lift when you can’t push it.

–Keep your back straight as you move from a squat to an upright position.

–Hold the snow shovel close to your upper body, and use your shoulder muscles as much as possible.

–Do not twist your upper body as you throw snow..  Pace yourself, and lift light loads, to prevent strain and injury

Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.

Never let your breathing get heavy and labored, and don’t let your heart race—stop and rest whenever you feel your body is getting stressed.

Check with your doctor if you have a medical problem.  Snow shoveling places a great deal of stress on the heart, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, speak with your doctor about whether or not you should undertake the task.

Purchase a pair of Yaktrax, ice traction devises for shoes. Named after the sure-footed Tibetan Yak, they will help you keep your footing on snow and ice while shovelling or even walking to the mailbox.

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