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Snow removal safety

Published in For the Health of It Author: Mitchell D. Kuhl, DO

St. Cloud Orthopedic Associates, LTD

Winter in Minnesota isn’t the same without snow. Or building a snowman. Or skiing. Or snowmobiling. Or any of the other activities that require the white stuff.

Snow shoveling might not be as beloved a winter activity as the others mentioned above. But, no matter how you choose to remove snow, know how to do so safely. Shoveling snow — especially if it is wet and heavy — can be particularly strenuous. If you are not in good shape or not using good form, heart attacks and injuries to the neck and back can and do happen after snowfalls.

Before you grab your hat and gloves, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Dress for the outdoors. Cover your head and neck. Wear layers. Avoid overheating and change clothes, if needed, to stay dry and warm. Review our full list of cold weather clothing precautions. 
  • Stay hydrated. Whether you are scooping snow or pushing a snowblower, snow removal is an aerobic activity. Take care of your body just as if you were running, playing sports or taking an exercise class. Take frequent water breaks.
  • Use the right form. Push the snow instead of lifting it. If you have to lift it, use your legs and bend your knees. Also, don’t throw snow over your shoulders or to the side. Be conscious if you are twisting or placing stress on your back.
  • Pace yourself. Especially after a large snowfall, resist the urge to lift too much at once. Scoop small amounts at one time. Take breaks if needed.
  • Snowblower safety. Never stick your hands in a snowblower and keep your hands and feet away from moving parts. If you need to clear out a jam. Be sure to completely turn off the engine and then wait five seconds before proceeding.
  • If you have a medical condition or if you do not exercise regularly, talk with your healthcare provider. As discussed, snow removal is a strenuous activity. If it’s not safe for you, don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor for help or call a removal service.

Good luck to everyone who braves the outdoors! With any luck, you’ll be back inside and able to watch the falling snow with a warm beverage before you know it.