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Avoid injuries when shoveling during the winter

Senior Wellness | Nov 23, 2015

Despite the unusually warm fall season, winter is indeed approaching. Some cities and states will soon start to see snow accumulate in backyards, on the streets and everywhere else.

The solution to snowfall is to shovel. The old fashioned method is to grab a shovel, clear a path and throw down some salt to also prevent ice from forming and presenting dangerous situations. Individuals sometimes find themselves quickly tiring out if a lot of snow has recently fallen.

Technology has made this process easier with the invention of snow removal machines, which no doubt come in handy when inches, sometimes feet, of snow otherwise present a challenge to free a car for use.

"Seniors have to be careful when it comes to removing snow."

Seniors must be careful when it comes to removing snow. Shoveling poses a risk of potential back injuries and pulled muscles from the repetitive motion, in addition to the added weight. The biggest risks are unseen ice and the cold.

Before a major snowstorm hits your city or town, take the time to check on your snow removal equipment in addition to keeping mind how to protect yourself when outside.

Shoveling injuries
According to the 2013 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, shoveling injuries may be more prevalent than one might believe. Approximately 6,000 individuals were injured while using a snowblower, and another 28,000 sustained injuries from manually removing snow and ice.

Seniors are at risk for heart conditions and back injuries. Intense strain is typically put upon an individual's shoulders and back. To help lower the chance of injury, The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends seniors will want primarily want to push the snow to the side instead of lifting the shovel. If you do, you'll want to:

  • Keep the loads light and avoid lifting more than you can handle
  • Squarely face the pile of snow you'll be lifting
  • Bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles
  • Do not lift with your back
  • Fully grip the shovel, and keep one hand on the handle and the other close to the blade
  • Do not extend your arms to throw the snow. Move your entire body to do so

Furthermore, shoveling requires you to pace yourself. If you're rushing to remove snow, you exert even more pressure on yourself. You can make this process easier on yourself by shoveling as it begins to cover the ground. By doing so, you'll avoid having to shovel heavy, packed snow.

Dress appropriately
Snow removal isn't just about picking up and throwing snow. You'll also want to wear the right clothes and gear before heading out. According to the Denver Health Medical Center, light, layered clothing helps provide insulation and ventilation. A good pair of water-resistant boots and socks will help keep feet dry and warm. You also can't forget about gloves and a hat to keep your head and hands warm.

"Cities and towns offer snow removal assistance programs."

Other tips
Above all, check with your doctor to ensure you are physically able to shovel snow or operate a snow blower. If you start to experience chest pains or difficulty breathing, immediately stop and call 911.

Luckily, you can still remove snow from the outside of your house by having others do it for you. There is nothing wrong with this option because you're looking out for your health. Numerous cities and towns offer snow removal assistance programs, not to mention the neighborhood kids who can also offer to help.

With winter quickly approaching, now is the time to make sure you have the right snow removal gear. Shovels, snow blowers and salt are must-haves. Remember, do not over exert yourself when shoveling to avoid potential injury.