12/05/02 - Snowy Strains

By now you've probably done a little snow shoveling, but doing it incorrectly could bring you a lot of pain. Not to mention what the cold weather could be doing to your heart.
Shoveling snow can be compared to weight lifting and if you do it for a long time, you may feel like you've just gotten off a treadmill. You could even be a little out of breath. It's definitely a workout, one that can put strain on your heart and back if you do it incorrectly.

Chiropractor Dr. Scott Smith says, "I see strains and sprains, twisted ankles and bruised knees." Ouch! Those are just some of the nasty things Smith sees this time of year. All of that can happen just from shoveling off your driveway, if you do it the wrong way. "When they get the weight out in front of them that increases strain on their back, then they twist with it too, that triples the weight and pressure on your spine," Smith says.
Another common mistake, doing too much when you're body's not ready for it. But your back isn't the only thing you need to worry about in this weather. Too much time outside and too much strain could be hard on your heart. Southeast Hospital ER Doctor Adam Swafford says, "Things you would not normally think of as physical activity, just the cold weather itself can impact the cardiovascular system." Swafford says during the cold weather, more patients come in complaining of chest pain too after being outside. "Just from the physical stress itself, if they have underlying coronary disease, they can have worsening of normal chest pain or up to a heart attack," Swafford says.
Here are some tips on how to be heart smart. Don't eat or smoke before shoveling snow. They may increase your heart rate. Pace yourself and stop immediately if you feel any kind of pain...and get help.
One shovel full of wet snow can weigh up to 20 pounds, so it's easy to put too much strain on your back. Don't just worry about shoveling though. Taking that first step out the door can be the most dangerous, because your body and feet are warm, and when they hit the cold pavement it can be slick, so be careful!