Tips for shoveling snow safely

February 16, 2010 9:42:20 AM PST
The storms this season also mean a lot of shoveling had to get done. And while shoveling is an unpleasant chore for many, it can also be dangerous, unless you keep in mind some safety tips. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says more than 100,000 people in the U.S. were treated for shoveling and manual snow removal injuries in 2007. And that doesn't include snowblower injuries.

And make no mistake, injuries from simply using the shovel are very real.

"People complain of everything from back pain to neck pain to shoulder pain to knee pain," said Dr. Susan Joy, of the Cleveland Clinic.

It is pain that can result in hospital or doctor visits and disability. And then there are the spills.

"And if you're not careful and you slip because you're not careful with your balance, you can certainly break something or sprain an ankle," Dr. Joy said. "So basically, any part of your body that you're using in that motion, which is most of it, you can injure. So be careful."

And being careful can be simply remembering that shoveling requires some care and preparation.

"Get warmed up before you go out," Dr. Joy recommends.

Before you grab the shovel, go for a quick walk or march in place and stretch the muscles in your arms and legs.

Then, when you begin shoveling, make sure to lift with your legs and not with your back.

And when throwing the snow with your shovel, don't twist your back. Instead use your momentum and step into the direction you will throw the snow.

Doing strenuous shoveling and not being in good shape is a combination that can even be deadly.

"There's also a lot of concern if you're not in shape and you snow shovel that you actually have a heart attack," Dr. Joy said. "So you have to be very careful with that sudden increase in a very strenuous activity."

Dr. Joy says listen to your body when shoveling. If you feel any muscle pain, stop. If you feel short of breath or are having chest pain, seek medical attention immediately.