It's blizzard time in the Boston area this weekend, with a severe winter storm expected to dump 15 to 20 inches of snow on the Eastern Massachusetts region. Besides the usual aggravations of clogged, slippery Monday morning commutes, you need to prepare yourself for the big dig out.
National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham told Globe reporters Scott Allen and Emma R. Stickgold, "It's going to be heavy snow. Sometimes you refer to this kind of snow as 'heart attack snow', because it is so heavy for people to shovel."
As if we weren't stressed enough trying to figure out how to return all those unwanted Christmas gifts. Truth is, most of us don't need to worry that we'll be clutching our hearts and falling on the pavement as we lift and dump shovel after shovel.
If you have heart problems, however, check with your doctor before going out to shovel. The American Heart Association says the combination of cold weather and physical exertion does put more strain on the heart, which can increase the risk of heart attacks in those who are susceptible. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack while shoveling, call 9-1-1.
Far more common are shoveling-related injuries like pulled muscles and strained backs. Dr. Scott Gillman, a sports chiropractor from Natick, Mass. offers a helpful tutorial on snow shoveling in the video posted above, and here are some tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
* Warm up your muscles by doing some light calisthenics (walking in place, squats, jumping jacks) for 10 minutes before you head outdoors.
* Pace yourself by taking frequent breaks. And drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
* Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Consider buying a bent-handle shovel, like the one used in the video above, that's designed to prevent too much stooping. Space your hands several inches apart on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
* Push the snow instead of lifting it, as much as you can. When you do have to lift snow (which will probably be the case with this storm), take small amounts of snow at a time, and lift it with your legs, not your back muscles: Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow, holding the shovelful of snow close to your body. Holding it with outstretched arms puts too much weight on your spine.
* Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side since this twisting motion can stress your back.
* If you're using a snowblower, never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower. (Okay, that seems obvious, but some folks probably do it.) If snow becomes too impacted, stop the engine and wait at least five seconds before using a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off. Also, never add fuel when the engine is running or hot.
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