Hallmark Health offers tips for safe, healthy winter

Sidewalks and driveways are slippery due to snow and ice. It’s up to you to shovel that snow away. During this time of year, it’s especially important to take the extra time, care and precautions to prevent injuries from shoveling.

According to the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than 118,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical settings in 2007 for injures that occurred while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually.

Each year at Hallmark Health’s physical therapy clinics, we treat sprains and strains to the back, neck and shoulders as a result of snow shoveling. The following are some safety tips to help make shoveling safer and to protect your neck and back:

  • Shoveling is a workout, so be sure to warm up your muscles and stretch prior to going outside.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it. It’s much easier and safer to push than to lift.
  • If you must lift the snow use your legs, not your back. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and keep the natural curves in your back. Do not bend at the waist as this puts excessive stress on your low back.
  • Shovel early and often since newly fallen snow is lighter than heavily packed or wet snow.
  • Keep the shovel close to your body.
  • Do not overfill your shovel. Do small amounts at a time.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This rotational motion puts stress on your back and can result in injury.
  • Dress appropriately. Dress in layers, wear a hat, gloves and make sure you wear proper footwear that provides traction. Good boots can help you keep your balance on slippery icy surfaces and help prevent a fall.
  • Use a shovel that feels comfortable for you. A smaller blade will force you to lift smaller loads of snow, which will help protect your back. A plastic blade weighs less than a metal blade so it will be easier to lift.
  • Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. This will help with muscle fatigue.
  • 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 help you remove the snow.

If you do injure yourself while shoveling Hallmark Health can help. The local health care organization’s Rehabilitation Services department provides in-depth, individualized evaluations and treatment plans to help you get back on your feet. The Rehabilitation Services team is comprised of a highly-trained, dedicated staff with individuals from a wide range of disciplines including physical therapy and occupational therapy.

For more information about Hallmark Health, visit www.hallmarkhealth.org or follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hallmarkhealth.

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Hallmark Health System is the premier, charitable provider of vital health services to Boston's northern communities. The system includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford; Melrose Wakefield Hospital, Melrose; Hallmark Health Cancer Center, Stoneham; The CHEM Center for MRI, Stoneham; Hallmark Health Medical Center, Reading; Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice, Malden; Lawrence Memorial/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs, Medford and Hallmark Health Medical Associates, Inc. Hallmark Health is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital for cardiology and Tufts Medical Center for neonatology.

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