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Safe shoveling tips

Jeff Denniston of Arlington has some help from "Buddy" as he shovels his sidewalks. (WTOP/Mike Murillo) 

WASHINGTON - This heavy, wet snow can be dangerous to shovel. 

Experts say it is best to think like a snow plow, and push the snow to the side instead of trying to lift it.

Michele Vita, a physical therapist at the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, says if possible, do what the road crews do to keep main arteries open: Shovel every time the snow accumulates 2 or 3 inches instead of waiting for the storm to stop. 

Vita says the most common injuries related to snow shoveling involve the back and are usually the result of "poor body mechanics when you are trying to lift the snow." 

Vita says bend at the knees and keep your back as straight as possible.   

"The best way to lift the snow is to grab the shovel as close to the shovel part of the handle as you can, with one hand. And then have your other hand about 12 inches back to help with stabilization," she says.  

It's also important to remember that shoveling this kind of snow is strenuous exercise, and it is important to take the same precautions you would at the gym.   Warm-up before you go outside to shovel to get your blood pumping -- something as simple as walking up and down stairs will do. 

Vita says some gentle stretching when you are done is also a good idea. 

If you experience mild soreness, icing the spot can help.  But if there is pain, call your doctor. 

- Paula Wolfson, WTOP

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