It is about that time of year in Colorado when heavy snow falls become more abundant and maintaining a clear walkway and driveway is required. If you are one of the many who do not own a snow blower, you may want to consider making sure you take all the steps you need to protect yourself from back injuries and heart attacks caused by shoveling snow the old fashioned way.

Heart Attacks After Shoveling Snow

Dangers of Shoveling Snow

The last thing you think of when shoveling snow is your heart, but it is something to be mindful of when you are out shoveling your walkway this winter season. As Harvard Health Publishing explains, most people who go out to shovel snow during the winter months have not exercised regularly.

Lifting heavy snow can make the heart work harder than it is used to and cause heart attacks in some people. Harvard Health Publishing goes on to say that shoveling, “can boost blood pressure, interrupt blood flow to part of the heart, and make blood more likely to form clots.”

According to the CDC, heart attack symptoms after shoveling snow can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest discomfort
  • Feeling weak or faint
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms and shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest

If you are suffering from chest pain, are aged 50 and younger, and have no familial history of heart conditions, you can go to an urgent care for an evaluation. The urgent care is a great option for an initial evaluation to save time, money, and for peace of mind.

You may be referred to the emergency room if a more serious condition is determined. If so, all of our clinics are near hospitals in the event a more severe condition is present. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, are aged 50 and older, and have a familial history of heart conditions, please consider visiting the emergency room for your initial evaluation.

Protect Your Heart When Shoveling Snow

Some people more than others have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack during laborious snow removal. VeryWealth Health mentions that, “as it turns out, shoveling snow is an extremely efficient way to [bring about] a heart attack in people who have coronary artery disease (CAD).”

This is not only due to being out of shape, but Harvard Health Publishing also says that increased blood flow, increased heart rate, increase in blood pressure, and cold air/temperatures can make blood clots more likely to occur.

Unfortunately most people with CAD or other underlying heart conditions are not aware they have them. It is for this reason that it is so important to protect your heart from these risk factors when shoveling snow.

Some ways you can protect your heart while you are out there this winter as advised by National Jewish Health include:

  • Avoid shoveling in the early hours of the morning and give yourself time to get your blood and body moving.
  • Make sure to stretch and warm up as if you were going to do a workout.
  • Use the appropriate shovel that may be smaller in size to avoid lifting too many pounds of snow at a time.
  • Bundle up and keep your body warm.
  • Make sure to take breaks and let your body rest.
  • Keep in mind the symptoms or signs of a heart attack so you can catch it early.

It is also important to maintain a healthy heart by visiting with your doctor regularly. This is to make sure you are aware of what your body can and can’t handle and to prevent or catch heart disease early.

Possible Back Injuries from Shoveling Snow: Muscle Strains and Back Pain After Shoveling Snow

Severe lower back pain after shoveling is not uncommon. Pain like this usually occurs due to a run-of-the-mill muscle strain according to Spine Health. Symptoms for a muscle strain include:

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Pain
  • Tenderness at the injury site
  • Difficulty moving due to pain

While most shoveling injuries tend to target the lower back, some may feel upper back pain after shoveling as well. As Tuttle Chiropractic explains, snow shoveling can also strain other muscles including the, “muscles between your shoulders, in your upper back, lower back, buttocks, and legs.”

Protect Your Back: Tips to Prevent Back Injuries During Winter Weather

Like other strenuous activities, it is important to prepare your body before doing movements that are out of the ordinary from your daily routine. Spine health explains that there are a couple ways you can protect your back from injury while shoveling snow:

  • Stretch and warm up like you would for any sport or workout.
  • Don’t shovel first thing in the morning, wait until you have moved around and warmed up.
  • Dress for the weather to keep your muscles warm and help keep your blood moving.
  • Stay hydrated so your body can “regulate heat.”
  • Avoid heavy loads and instead shovel little amounts at a time.
  • Salt or gravel areas where you are working so you don’t slip and fall.
  • Use the proper shoveling technique and the appropriate shovel length and size. Spine health recommends using a shovel that has sturdy handles, longer or adjustable shaft length, that is lightweight, and is equipped with a metal blade to make scraping easier.

How to Alleviate Back Pain at Home

In the event that something might happen and you accidentally injure yourself while shoveling snow. There are some home remedies that may help keep the pain under control. Spine Health offers great advice on how to take care of yourself after a back injury. They recommend:

  • Resting on and off in small increments to rest sore muscles and to avoid stiffness.
  • Taking Ibuprofen or Tylenol to help with the pain and inflammation.
  • Applying ice to the injury site or taking warm baths
  • Using topical ointments such as IcyHot to help ease the discomfort

Need to See A Provider?

It will also ease your mind to know that Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine will make sure you are taken care of if your home remedies for back pain don’t do the trick. We have locations across Colorado’s Denver metro area and state of the art x-ray machines in case the injury is more serious. Schedule an appointment online or walk-in 7 days a week, 8 am to 8 pm. Click here to view all of our locations and to schedule.