Cold Weather Calamities Part 2: Snow shoveling

According to the latest report, a winter storm is brewing and likely headed to the U.S. East Coast by end of week. As frigid temperatures become the norm throughout the U.S., we here at are taking a closer look at potential medical issues and emergencies that could arise during the peak winter months.

Today's entry will cover the medical risks associated with snow shoveling and how you can prevent and treat them with FSA eligible products!

How do snow shoveling injuries occur?

If you live in a part of the U.S. that has a temperate climate, there's a good chance there will be a snowstorm in the forecast this coming winter and you'll be tasked with removing all of that snow and ice from your home's walking areas. However, each year this activity is responsible for thousands of injuries, some of which can even be life-threatening.

According to 2013 statistics by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 28,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms while shoveling or removing ice by hand. The most common injuries muscle, tendon and soft tissue injuries from overexertion, broken bones from falls, lower back injuries from awkward motions and heart issues from physical activity.

How can I make snow shoveling safe this winter?

We've compiled a list of vital safety tips that can help you or a loved one stay safe when removing snow all winter long. Here are a few ways to get started:

Make a doctor's appointment: Before reaching for that shovel this winter, it's vital to get a better sense of your overall state of health to avoid unnecessary injuries. If you have a heart problem or are in poor shape, it may be wise to hire someone to remove the snow instead of doing it yourself.

Use your FSA/HSA/HRA: If you have a healthcare plan with a consumer spending account, this can cover a wide range of medical products and equipment that can help reduce your chances of injury when shoveling snow.

For instance, back braces, abdominal supports/rib belts, and kinesiology tape can play a major role in immobilizing trouble areas and preventing injuries.

Or, you can also shop for hotandcold therapy packs to treat sore muscles!

Perform pre-shoveling stretches: As with any form of physical activity, stretching beforehand is one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries. Warm up your muscles with some light physical activity, and make an effort to stretch out your lower back, shoulders and arms before attempting to remove snow.

Pick the right shovel: Are you using the right tool for the job? When picking out a snow shovel, make sure it is appropriate for your height and level of strength. Try out a few versions at the store to find one that is the correct weight and height to do the job.

Alter your shoveling technique: Heavy lifting is a recipe for injuries if it is performed improperly, so instead of lifting snow, make an effort to push it instead to lessen the strain on your back. If you're forced to lift snow, make sure you do it properly. Always lift with your legs and space your hands on the handle to increase your leverage. When squatting over, always keep your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lastly, avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side. This can produce a twisting motion that can place undue stress on your back.

Take a break!: As much as you want to get back into your warm home and get the job over with, the vast majority of snow shoveling injuries occur due to overexertion, so take frequent breaks. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, and if you feel any dizziness, shortness of breath or chest pains, seek out medical attention.

Check back again soon for our next entry on how to treat winter-related emergencies, and make sure you're prepared for any medical situation by exploring the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products at!

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