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Take precautions before taking a shovel to that snow

With Michigan’s snow shoveling season upon us, the Michigan Primary Care Consortium is offering guidelines to avoid personal injury or a serious health care consequence.

Of special concerns are individuals facing chronic back challenges, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as being a tobacco user.

— Snow shoveling is no different than any other physical activity. For personal safety, consult with a physician to determine if snow shoveling is safe.

— If there is a personal or physician concern, hire an individual to help with shoveling.

— Start slowly, work at a steady pace and take frequent breaks. Shoveling for extended periods of time can comprise safety and health.

— If you experience any pain or unusual symptoms, immediately stop and seek appropriate assistance.

— Select the right shovel. A curved handle is recommended. A plastic blade tends to be lighter than a metal blade. And a smaller blade picking up less snow is less stressful on your back and other body areas.

— The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends lifting snow in a squat position with legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with the legs; do not bend at the waist. When tossing the snow, this position should be in the direction of the throw. Never throw snow over the shoulder. A snow-packed shovel blade can weigh as much as 25 pounds.

— Stay hydrated while working outdoors. Best to avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages and energy drinks.

— Wear layered clothing that can be removed as you warm up. Wear insulated gloves or mittens, socks and boots.

— Warm up muscles before journeying out to remove snow. Cold and tight muscles are more likely to sprain or strain. Consider a minor pre-stretching process.

— Let a family member, neighbor or friend know you will be outside shoveling snow.

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