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Winter is in full swing, which means snow — and your snow shovel — is likely to make an appearance soon.

Shoveling snow is a moderate-intensity exercise that often results in injury when done incorrectly. Our backs and shoulders are especially vulnerable to injuries when we’re shoveling. Follow these tips to stay snow-safe this winter season. It will take some preparation, but your legs, back and heart will thank you:

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1. Warm up: Before shoveling, warm up your muscles in your legs, arms, shoulders and back by stretching.

2. Prepare: If you must stand on ice, put down salt or sand to give your feet some traction. Spray the dish of the shovel with olive oil before you start to help the snow easily slide on and off.

3. Equip yourself: Use an ergonomic shovel with a bend in the handle – it will save your back by helping you to bend less.

snow family shovel
Don’t let a shoveling injury slow you down this winter.
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4. Use proper form: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and space your hands apart on the shovel handle. Bend at your knees, stick your bottom backwards and use your legs to lift the snow. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it and alternate which side you are shoveling towards. Protect your back by tightening your stomach muscles while you lift. Walk to drop the snow instead of throwing it; if you must throw it, do not bend at the waist, but instead rotate your entire body to face the direction of the throw.

5. Take it easy: Don’t put too much snow on the shovel at once; shovel only 1 to 2 inches at a time. And slow down. Most injuries occur when people try to shovel too quickly. Take a break every 5 to 10 minutes to regain your breath. Go inside, drink some water, refuel and rest. Shoveling snow is like weightlifting, and if you don’t take breaks, you put could yourself at risk for heart attack.

Important Note: If you are overweight, elderly or have a history of heart or back problems, you should forgo shoveling snow altogether and use a snow blower or call a neighbor or friend for assistance.

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If you should sustain an injury while shoveling snow this winter, the experts at the LifeBridge Health Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics can help. Call 410-601-WELL (9355) to schedule an appointment today, and get back to being you!