Love it or hate it, winter is here, and for many people, this means shoveling snow. For an ostomate, this could increase the risk of developing a parastomal hernia (one of my biggest fears), so it’s extremely important to take special care.
Below you’ll find some strategies to help deal with snow.
Disclaimer: Before doing any shoveling,please make sure that you’ve been given the ok from your surgeon. If you’ve had abdominal surgery in the past year, it is particularly important to take precautions; it’s better to prevent a hernia than to manage it afterwards.
Hernia Prevention Belts / Support Bands.
As the first line of protection, hernia prevention belts, and support bands can be used to provide pressure to the abdominal area that is most at risk for hernias. These belts are often custom fit, and most insurance providers will cover them if your doctor writes a prescription for you.
Keep in mind that you’ll want a belt that offers firm support, so a regular Ostomy wrap won’t be good enough for hernia prevention. HU-Hope is one popular brand, and their products are found through just about any medical supplier.
Here’s a video from a friend, and fellow ostomate, Megan (The Front Butt YouTuber):
If you haven’t seen her other videos, I’d highly recommend that you check them out (and subscribe to her YouTube channel).
Choose the Right Equipment
Shovels come in all sorts of styles, which is great because you can find one (or more) to suit your needs.
I use two shovels: one is a big-ass push-style and the other is a smaller ergonomic one. Both can be used differently, so I find this combination works best for me.
You may want to invest in a shovel that isn’t very wide, so there’s less weight to move around.
UPDATE: An ostomate friend of mine brought up another very cool product that could help: The Heft I’ve seen swivel shovels before, and if you can find one (or The Heft), it may help to reduce back/abdominal strain.
If you have the option to buy a snow blower, it could make things a lot easier for you, since there’s nearly no lifting involved.
Focus on Technique
It’s crucial that you use good form when pushing and lifting the shovel. Try to use your arms and legs more, and your abdominal muscles less.
I’ve when got a long driveway, so when I shovel, I focus on pushing snow from the top of my driveway to about 3/4 the way down, then I push that accumulated pile of snow off to the side little by little. For me, pushing is far easier than lifting snow, especially when it’s heavy snow.
If you’ve got a wide driveway, push snow from the center line out towards the edges; this will be the most efficient way of clearing the snow and will minimize the number of times you’ll need to lift your shovel.
If you do have to lift snow, lift a little at a time – this is not the time for heroics! I find that lifting while twisting puts more stress on my midsection, so I avoid that when possible.
Get Help from Others
There’s no shame in asking for help if you feel that shoveling is going to put your health at risk. It could be as easy as asking your spouse, your son or daughter, or a neighbor for an extra hand; most people are glad to help, and it can be a fun way to spend time together.
If you can’t find help in your home, look into hiring someone to shovel your driveway when the snow gets really deep, but make sure you’re going with a reputable person/company as snow shoveling service frauds are common! Sometimes even neighborhood teens will go door to door asking if anyone need helps for a small fee, so take advantage of the help if it’s being offered.
If you see a neighbor across the street plowing through 2 feet of snow with a snowblower, ask if he wouldn’t mind clearing your driveway for a small fee. They may decline payment, but most will help anyways.
Aside from hernia prevention, here are a few things that’ll make shoveling snow a little more enjoyable!
- Keep hydrated. Drink something warm before you head out to tackle the driveway. If you’re going to be out there for a while, take a thermos of warm fluids out with you (hello vegan hot chocolate!) .
- Warm up before you start Doing some light stretches can minimize injury.
- Layer your clothes. I’m not your mom, but she’s probably told you 100 times that layering your clothes will keep you warm and comfortable. It’s easier to remove clothing if you get too hot or sweaty when it’s in layers.
- Slow down! Clearing your driveway isn’t a race, so take it slow. Injuries tend to happen more when we are in a rush or careless.
- Take some music with you! I’ve got a Bluetooth headset that I use to stream music while I’m out shoveling; headsets will work just fine!
- Use salt/sand on walkways. Once you’re done shoveling, throw some salt or sand on walkways or steps approaching your front door. You’ve gone through at least one surgery, and you don’t need another one because you’ve slipped on icy steps!
- Empty your pouch before you head outside. This will help to prevent a leak or blowout while you’re out there busting your hump!
Use common sense if you’ve got an ostomy and need to shovel snow. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop what you’re doing and have someone else finish the job.