This month is American Heart Month. It’s also a snowy month, at least here in Wisconsin. While some people have the luxury, desire, and ability to travel south for the winter months escaping the cold and falling white stuff (snow), most WI natives are having to deal with removal of said white stuff. This is done by snow plowing, blowing and shoveling, or a combination of two or all of them. The last two options however, can be very strenuous for the young and old alike depending on the moisture of the snow fall and the total amount accumulated. Even having the very best and top of the line of snow blowers can still require a lot of energy to push the machine down the driveway and sidewalk.
Now, you are probably wondering where I am going with stating all of this mostly common sense and knowledge.
Well, what is less known is the increase in occurrences of cardiac arrests from snow removal, especially shoveling. According to a retroactive study from the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 6.7% of snow removal emergency visits were cardiac related symptoms. The highest was musculoskeletal exertion at 53.9%, followed by slip/falls at 20% (Watson, 2011). Unfortunately, we as physical therapists tend to see people once an injury already has occurred, and does often include longer rehabilitation due to traumatic falls, significant muscle strains related to the lower back and extremities, and also ligamentous and joint strains (musculoskeletal injuries).
While snow removal is unavoidable here in WI if you own your own home or have a job that involves snow removal, it is important to take precautions to reduce the activity intensity. These can include shoveling lighter loads and taking your time, having family or friends help you with the task, or getting stronger before the winter season is upon us. This is one way physical therapy can help.
Here at PT Plus, we can help get you stronger to reduce your potential for musculoskeletal injury which will also lower the cardiac demand that snow removal entails, thus lowering your risk for cardiac arrests. We can also correct and assist with movement patterns to help make the removal of snow easier in addition to helping to train and improve your balance to lessen the risk for slips and falls. Whatever the reason or need, we can help. Afterall, we are a more enjoyable experience then an ER visit.
So, during this heart awareness month and snow removal season, please remember to be safe and stay warm. Spring is just around the corner.
Your local PT Plus team
Watson, D. (2011) ‘Snow shovel-related injuries and medical emergencies treated in US Eds, 1990 to 2006’, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 29(1), pp 11-17. Available at: https://ajemjournal-test.com.marlin-prod.literatumonline.com/article/S0735-6757(09)00371-4/fulltext
These PT Pro Tips are brought to you by our Slinger and West Bend Therapist, Dave Conway, PT, DPT.
Outside of work, Dave enjoys paddle boarding, hiking, camping, swimming, and a desire for most anything new and adventurous!