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Shoveling Safety Tips

By Krista Ford, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C | Sycamore Health Center | 11/25/2014

Now that the winter wonderland is here, it’s time to get the shovel out and start clearing the snow, right? The good news is that shoveling is a great form of physical activity. The bad news is that it can lead to serious injury, possibly even an emergency room visit. Accidents are common, ranging from mild cuts and scrapes, to the more serious end of the spectrum—a broken bone, or even heart attack or stroke. Snow and ice removal can be dangerous, especially if you do not exercise regularly.

Shoveling can put an increased demand on your heart, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Here are some helpful tips to enjoy the white stuff outside, while keeping safe!

  • Know your limits – Remember, removing snow/ice places stress on your heart, so speak with your health care provider first, especially if you have any heart conditions. Also, be aware that your risk for falls may increase due to medications or other health conditions (such as ear or eye disorders).
  • Pace yourself – Take it slow, as shoveling increases heart rate and blood pressure. Try to clear snow early and often. Take breaks if needed. If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately and call 911.
  • Stay warm – Dress in layers and wear mittens, hats, scarves, and boots. Young kids have a hard time knowing when to come inside from the cold, so check on them frequently to make sure body parts are covered, warm, and dry. Wear slip-resistant shoes.
  • Know your path – Be sure the path is well lit and watch for patches of ice or uneven surfaces.
  • Listen to your body – Stop if you feel pain!

To prevent back injuries:

  • Use the right equipment. Use a shovel that is comfortable and not too heavy.
  • Push the snow, instead of lifting it to prevent back injuries.
  • Light covering of snow is easier to shovel than hard, packed snow. 
  • Lift with your legs bent, not your back. Keep your back straight.
  • Don’t pick up too much at one time. Use a small shovel to pick up a small bit at a time to avoid injuries.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder; the twisting motion is hard on your back!

For more information check out the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons site:

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A faculty practice unit under College of Nursing Health Care, the Sycamore Health Center is a primary care and mental health services clinic operated entirely by nurse practitioners. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 319-337-9066, email or visit

Posted On: 
Jan 6th, 2015