< Back to News

Physicians warn against wintertime over-exertion

Uniontown Hospital Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Surabhi Gaur

By Olivia Goudy


Snow shoveling and ice removal are necessary evils of the serene, winter season.

In doing so, however, local health experts are advising shovelers to be careful and listen to their bodies, rather than over­exerting themselves.

“Just because it’s a chore doesn’t mean you have to do it for three hours straight,” said Surabhi Gaur M.D., medical director at the Uniontown Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Instead, Gaur recommends the cardio­heavy activity be done in 20­ to 30 ­minute increments.

“Don’t be out for long periods of time,” she said. Gaur also recommended drinking water frequently. “You might not feel hot, but you’re still losing fluid,” Gaur said. “You can get dehydrated even when it’s not hot out.”

Tim Hohman, a nurse practitioner in Finleyville working with the Monongahela Valley Hospital, said the strenuous activity can place undue stress on the human heart. Snow removal can be especially dangerous if you do not exercise regularly, he said.

“Be aware of what your body is telling you,” Gaur said. “It’s not normal for you to have chest pains after shoveling snow. It could be more than muscle strain or tiredness.”

Gaur noted being aware of the environment that could cause those who are outdoors to fall and injure themselves or be exposed to the frigid temperatures for too long.

More than 158,000 people were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually, Hohman said, citing a U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission report for 2015.

At Uniontown Hospital, though there haven’t been many snow­ related injuries yet, snowstorms typically bring a number of slip injuries and motor vehicle collisions, Gaur said.

“We don’t see anything catastrophic,” she said.

The CPSC report said the most common injuries were sprains, back and shoulder strains, lacerations and finger amputations.

“Be careful. If you slip and break a wrist or ankle, you’re out of commission for six weeks,” Gaur said.

Gaur recommended planning ahead and timing activities appropriately to avoid shoveling in the dark, or on solid ice when salting it ahead of time could have prevented ice buildup. For the older population, Gaur said there’s nothing wrong with “relying on friends and neighbors, or professional services, for those types of chores.”

“In the end, you’re better off with a driveway full of snow than suffering a bone injury or something worse like a heart attack,” she said.

Instead, the CPSC advised shovelers to start early, clearing snow often especially if a large snowfall is expected. Officials also recommended warming up muscles for 10 minutes prior to the vigorous outdoor activity, and pacing yourself with frequent breaks and knowledge of proper lighting techniques.

“Try to push the snow instead of lifting it,” they said. “If you must lift, do it properly.”

They recommended shovelers squat with their legs apart, knees bent and back straight and instead lifting with their legs while not bending at the waist.

“Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine,” they wrote. “Never remove deep snow all at once — this is particularly important in the case of heavy, wet snow. Do it in pieces.”

We hope you will join us for the March for Babies this Saturday, April 29th at Mt. Macrina. Registration is at 9 an… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…
Uniontown Hospital is a proud supporter of the March of Dimes.
Flag raised in honor of National Donate Life Month uniontownhospital.com/News-Flag-rais… via @utwnhospital
The Community Shredding Event is tomorrow! Bring your paper documents and digital storage devices for safe and secu… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…
Ceremonial CORE Flag Raising set for Monday, April 24th at Uniontown Hospital uniontownhospital.com/News-CORE-Flag… via @utwnhospital
Uniontown Hospital's Brittney Zack provides insight into the effects of yo-yo dieting. uniontownhospital.com/News-Dieting-d… via @utwnhospital
Uniontown Hospital to offer Community Shredding Event uniontownhospital.com/News-Hospital-… via @utwnhospital
Thank you all for the Healthy Difference you Make in our Community!
Your generosity helped us donate 31 boxes of hygiene and cleaning products and $420 to St. Vincent de Paul and The… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…