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Stay safe this winter with these snow removal tips

It's winter, and you know what that means: snow. And while it may be pretty to look at, snow can literally be a pain to shovel.

Every year, thousands of people are treated at hospital emergency departments, doctor's offices and clinics for injuries sustained while shoveling snow.

“Because it involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting, removing snow can be especially hard on back, shoulder and arm muscles,” said Aspirus Physical Therapist Jeff Baril, PT, DPT, OMPT. “It can also be hard on your heart. Older adults face an increased risk for having heart problems while shoveling. And it's not unusual for people to slip or fall.”

When it’s time to tackle your snow-covered walkway or driveway, Baril recommends you follow these suggestions for safe shoveling:

  1. Dress appropriately. Wear light, water-repellent clothing; a hat; gloves; and warm socks. Put on shoes or boots with good traction to avoid falling.
  2. Never use a shovel that is too heavy or too long.
  3. Clear snow early and often. It's easier to remove a light covering of snow from the ground than it is to clear packed, heavy snow.
  4. Take plenty of breaks and drink lots of water.
  5. If you feel any pain, stop shoveling right away. If you have chest pain, seek medical attention immediately.
  6. Push snow instead of lifting it.
  7. Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side because it can stress your back.

If you have any questions about your snow-shoveling fitness, you should talk to your doctor—especially if you're older than 40, don't exercise regularly or have a history of heart problems.