Jan. 3, 2001 ROSEMONT, Ill. - Another snowstorm is a real pain in the neck and for people shoveling the snow, it could also be a pain in the back, shoulder and wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
To help shovelers reduce their injury risk, the 24,500-member Academy issued the following Prevent Injuries America! snow safety guidelines:
-Shovel early and often. Newly fallen snow is lighter than heavily-packed or partially-melted snow. Before you begin shoveling, warm-up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.
-Push the snow instead of lifting it. Keep the shovel close to your body. Space your hands on the shovel. It increases your leverage.
-If you must lift the snow, lift it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once; do it piecemeal. Shovel and inch or two; then take another inch off. Rest, and repeat if necessary.
-Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
-See what you are shoveling. Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch out for ice patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes/boots that have slip-resistant soles.
-Use a shovel that feels comfortable for your height and strength. Avoid a shovel that is too heavy or too long.
-Pace yourself. Shoveling snow is an aerobic activity, comparable to weightlifting. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration, which affects muscles.
-Check with your doctor. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, talk with your doctor before shoveling. If necessary, hire someone to remove the snow.
The potential for musculoskeletal injury is high among inexperienced snow shovelers as well as those who have shoveled so many times this winter that they do not bother to think about snow safety.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (http://www.aaos.org) is a not-for-profit organization that provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons, allied health professionals and the public.
The Academy's Prevent Injuries America! national injury prevention campaign is designed to help reduce musculoskeletal injuries. For more information, Internet users can log onto (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org).
An advocate for improved patient care, the Academy is participating in the Bone and Joint Decade (www.bonejointdecade.org), the global initiative in the years 2000-2010 to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health, stimulate research and improve people's quality of life.
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