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Got snow? Tips for safe shoveling

A powerful snowstorm beginning Friday morning is expected to drop a heavy dose of snow on the Atlantic Coast’s roadways, driveways, and sidewalks, the majority of which will be cleared by plows and snow blowers.

But some people will be forced to shovel, a physically taxing activity that can strain the lumbar region of the back and even increase the risk of heart attack.

“Shoveling is an aerobic exercise and puts a lot of stress on the heart,” said Alycia Markowski, an associate clinical professor in the Department of Physical Therapy who specializes in treatment for lower back pain. “If you are out of breath, stop and take a break.”

Markowsi plans on doing her fair share of shoveling this weekend and offered a few easy-to-follow back injury prevention tips and techniques for shoveling heavy snow.

  • Lift with your legs, not your arms
  • Keep a snow-filled shovel close to your body
  • If you throw the snow, turn your feet in the direction you are throwing—do not twist at the waist

If you do suffer a shoveling-related back injury, Markowski recommends treating it with ice, not heat, which increases inflammation. If ice does not quell the back pain, try this simple exercise: “Lie on your stomach, keep your hips on the ground, and arch your back,” Markowski said. “This takes the stress off the structures that you have stressed.”

But if you’d rather stay inside where its warm and dry—and pain-free—calling the plow guy might just be the best move of all.