Snow removal is a major cause of winter-related injuries, but there are several ways to reduce your risk, an expert says.
“Individuals tend to haste through snow shoveling to avoid being outside in the cold for long periods of time,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Abboud, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), said in an academy news release.
“Unfortunately, rushing through this task can lead to injuries. It should always be done at a slow and steady pace because of the energy and focus that’s required. Always check with your doctor before shoveling snow and consider hiring someone to do it for you if you’re unable to,” he advised.
In 2014, more than 203,000 Americans required treatment for injuries suffered while manually clearing snow, and nearly 27,000 were injured using snow blowers or throwers, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
When shoveling, try to push the snow instead of lifting it, experts say. If you must lift, keep the amounts of snow small and lift with your legs, without bending at the waist. Don’t throw snow over your shoulder or to the side, which requires a twisting motion that puts stress on your back. Instead, walk to where you want to dump the snow.
Clear snow early and often, take frequent breaks and drink water to prevent dehydration. If you develop chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, get immediate emergency care, the AAOS said.
If you use a snow blower, read the instruction manual before use, the experts said in the news release. If your snow blower gets jammed, turn off the engine and wait at least five seconds. If it has a cord, unplug it. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Never stick your hands or feet in a snow blower.
In addition, never leave a running snow blower unattended. If you have to walk away from the machine, turn it off.
If you’re using an electric snow blower, always be aware of where the power cord is so you do not trip and fall.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about winter health and safety.