Many of us have shoveled snow this season, and with several more weeks of winter ahead, doctors are sending out a warning about serious shoveling risks.
“Many people have this as their first activity in several months since it’s been cold and they haven’t been outside, so it’s a stress to their system on several fronts” said Dr. Thomas Clemens, a cardiologist for Good Samaritan Health System.
Shoveling can stress your heart by increasing your blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to angina, even a heart attack.
“We see patients with heart attacks not always on the day of the event, but several days later,” Clemens said. “In fact, up to as long as five days after the event, it seems that they start a process that continues and can precipitate an event several days later.”
Clemens said before you grab the shovel, ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough.
Shoveling can also cause all kinds of injuries. Back strains, shoulder strains, and herniated discs are the most common.
Brian Haines, a physical therapist with Good Samaritan Health System, said you should think of shoveling like a sport.
“You think of an athlete, he sort of warms up before he takes the field. It wouldn’t be wrong for us to actually warm up our muscles before we go out and do such activity,” Haines said. “Mini squats or some lunges would wake up those muscles we need to use to lift and push and pull that heavy snow.”
Also, like a sport, Haines said you can get an injury from wrong form. Haines demonstrated the proper form.
“Muscles are tight, back is straight. Once I lift that, I want to step and turn to unload that snow,” Haines said.
Here are some tips that will protect both your muscles and your heart:
– Dress for the weather.
– Do not shovel immediately after eating or consuming alcohol.
– Stay hydrated.
– Do not shovel all the snow at once, take breaks.
Clemens offered one last piece of advice.
“Get a snow blower,” he said.