Bergen County Healthy Living: Shovel Your Sidewalk and Driveway Safely
 
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With winter storms upon us, the Acute Rehabilitation Department at Bergen Regional Medical Center has a few tips to keep you safe and well when you are shoveling snow.

• If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shoveling snow.

• Avoid caffeine or nicotine before beginning. These, and other stimulants, may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict placing extra stress on your heart.

• Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in cold winter months as it is in the summer.

• Dress in several layers so you can remove layers as needed.

• Warm up your muscles before shoveling by walking for a few minutes or marching in place. Stretch the muscles in your arms and legs - muscles work more efficiently when warmed up and are less likely to be injured.

• Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow and put less strain on your body.

• Begin shoveling slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your heart. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed.

• Protect your back from injury by lifting correctly.

• Stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Bend from the knees (not the back) and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow and try to avoid twisting movements. If you need to move the snow to one side position your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.

• Most importantly - listen to your body. Stop if you feel pain! If shoveling snow has caused pain in your neck, back or shoulder that won’t go away, ask your doctor about getting a prescription for physical therapy.