snow shovel

Now that the winter snow has made its way to Pittsburgh, it is important to recognize safe practices for shoveling your snow. Although it can be great exercise, shoveling snow can also pose some serious health risks including sore muscles, lower back pain, exhaustion, and even heart attacks.

Get a head start

Get a head start shoveling
Fresh-fallen powdery snow is much easier to lift than wet packed-down snow. Get started early and keep up with the snowfall throughout the day.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine before shoveling

avoid caffeine in the morning
These products are stimulants which may increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, putting more stress on the heart.

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Dress in layers

Dress in layers
As your body starts to heat up, you can shed some of these layers to make yourself more comfortable.

Stretch and warm-up before you begin shoveling

Stretch before shoveling snow
As with any exercise, getting your muscles loose and warm before you begin will lessen your chance of injury. We recommend walking or jogging in place, as well as fully stretching your arms, legs, and back.

Pick a shovel that works best for you

Pick a shovel
Using a shovel with a smaller blade will be lighter to lift, as well as limit the amount of snow you can pick up. There are also shovels with curved handles that are designed to take some of the strain off of your back.

Good posture is key

Good posture is key
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bending at your knees and using your leg muscles as much as possible. Do not bend at your back. Keep the shovel close to your upper body and always avoid twisting or throwing snow over your shoulder. If you need to deposit snow in another direction, reposition your feet first to prevent putting excess stress on your back which could lead to serious injury.

Push the snow, don’t lift it

Push snow instead of lifting it
This will be much easier on your back and reduce your risk of injury.

Take frequent breaks

Take frequent breaks while shoveling snow.
It is important to stop and rest about every 15 minutes or when your body begins to feel tired. Be sure to stay hydrated and pace yourself.

Don’t overexert yourself

Don't overexert yourself while shoveling
Listen to your body and rest for a bit if you start to feel fatigued.

Note: Shoveling snow is a physical activity which can place a demand on your heart that can cause serious health concerns. Certain people should not shovel snow and it is important that you speak to your doctor before partaking in this physical activity. These people include:

  • Anyone who has previously had a heart attack
  • Anyone who has a history of heart disease
  • Individuals leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Smokers
  • Individuals with high blood pressure or high cholesterol

About Urgent Care

Sometimes you need care right away, with no time to wait for an appointment. That’s where UPMC Urgent Care comes in. We offer prompt treatment for illnesses and injuries seven days a week, with no appointment necessary. With locations throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, you can find immediate care close to you – even if your doctor’s office is closed. Our services include treatment for minor injuries and illnesses, physicals, prescription filling, and flu shots and immunizations. Wait times for minor injuries and illnesses are usually shorter than the Emergency Department, and we accept most major insurance. Visit our website to find a location close to you.