In fact, an analysis of 17 years of hospital records found that about 195,100 people sought emergency treatment for snow shoveling-related injuries during that time span—an average of 11,500 per year, according to the 2011 study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
“Snow removal is high-stress on the back if done incorrectly,” said Steven Morgan, MD, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), “and it’s especially dangerous if you don’t exercise regularly.
“Always proceed with caution when removing snow,” he added.
If you have a medical condition—such as a heart problem—ask or hire someone to do the shoveling for you, said Dr. Morgan. Or be sure to talk with your doctor before taking on the job yourself.
Here are some additional tips from the AAOS:
1. Use proper equipment. Don’t use a shovel that’s too heavy or too long for you.
2. Warm up first. Do some light exercises for about 10 minutes before heading out.
3. Start early. A light covering of fresh snow is easier to clear than heavy, packed snow.
4. Push, don’t lift. Pushing snow takes less effort than lifting a shovel load. But if you must lift, scoop small amounts. Squat with legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Don’t bend at the waist.
5. Walk, don’t throw. Walk your small shovel load to wherever you want to dump it. Don’t throw it over your shoulder or to the side.
6. Dress appropriately. Light, layered clothing is best for ventilation and insulation. Wear shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles, and put on a warm hat and gloves.
7. Take frequent breaks. Pace yourself. Don’t overexert. Take breaks to drink fluids and avoid dehydration.
8. Listen to your body. Shoveling snow can be hard on the heart. If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, stop and seek emergency medical help.