When the ground is covered in snow, the first thought is to dig yourself out. The second thought should be are you physically ready? “If your body isn’t prepared for shoveling snow, your chances of sustaining muscle pulls and strains will increase,” said Dr. Susan Wainwright, vice chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Or worse she added, as shoveling snow is no different than any physical activity that strains the heart.
“A lot of ‘weekend warriors’ who play basketball or football won’t think twice about stretching before they play, but they’ll carelessly go out and shovel snow without any type of warm up,” said Wainwright. “Back injuries are one of the most common injuries when snow falls.”
But whether you are playing in a sport or not, it is always important to take time out to warm up and stretch before engaging in any physical activity, including shoveling snow from your pavement and driveway. Wainwright noted that correct position is important when shoveling. She also said you shouldn’t overload the shovel and you should never use your back to lift snow.
“The back is not meant to do this type of activity,” she added. “The back is supposed to be stable so that the arms and legs can move appropriately. You have to lift with the arms and legs, and then twist with the arms and legs. Injuries occur when people lift and twist with their backs.”
Shoveling snow can also be fatal. According to Wainwright, numerous individuals suffer heart attacks from the strain of lifting snow. She said men and women above the age of 45 who are not physically active should take extreme caution when they take to shoveling. She added that it might even be wise to pay someone to do it for them.
“The heart is a muscle like any other muscle in your body,” said Wainwright. “When it gets strained, it shuts down because it can’t handle the increased load. Older adults who aren’t that active tax their cardiovascular system when they start to shovel and this results in heart attacks. You have to remember that shoveling is hard work and you should take every precaution to not get injured or even worse.”