Snow Shoveling Safety: 7 Tips to Stay Healthy And Avoid Pain

December 17, 2020

Man shoveling snow without pain

Shoveling snow can be risky business with potential falls, slips, shoulder and back injuries. Did you know there is a right way to shovel?  Follow these seven tips to help safely get the job done and avoid pain. 

Talk to Your Doc Before Shoveling

If you have heart or lung problems, check with your physician before shoveling.

If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness or chest, arm pain/pressure, stop and follow up with your doctor and/or call 911.

Warm Up Your Body

Shoveling is strenuous, so prepare like you would for any exercise.

March in place, do 10 backward shoulder rolls (gently roll shoulders up, back and forward) and stretch up to the ceiling a few times.

Proper Footwear Keeps You on Your Feet

Prevent falls by wearing boots with non-skid soles. Or, consider using clip-on, non-skid specialty soles over your boots for better traction.

Good Ergonomics Can Prevent Back Pain, Shoulder Pain

When shoveling snow, good ergonomic form and posture is key. The techniques below will help prevent injuries from lifting, twisting and/or overreaching.  

  • Keep your spine straight by imagining a line between your head and hips. Hold your head up and contract your abdominal muscles.
  • Keep your body square toward the snow you lift, and keep your scoops light.
  • Keep the full shovel close to your body, with one hand close to the blade and the other on the handle.
  • Avoid twisting your back while moving snow. Pivot your body or walk to deposit the load of snow rather than reaching or twisting.

Find the Right Snow Shovel

Today’s shovels have ergonomic designs and adjustable handles to minimize stress and bending.

Switch It Up

While shoveling, switch up activities and avoid repetitive bending.

Change arms to avoid one-sided strain, and take periodic breaks to stretch, walk or even clear off your car.

Listen to Your Body

Most importantly, remember that pain is the body’s alarm system, alerting you to damage.

Never work through pain, as it will magnify the injury and increase its likelihood of becoming chronic. Wait until your pain subsides or ask others for help.

Elizabeth Buresh, PT, MPT, is a licensed physical therapist at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy in Laurys Station, PA. She specializes in Kinesio Taping®, headaches, vestibular/balance, complex chronic pain and school-age pediatrics.

If you are experiencing aches and pains from shoveling snow or other winter-related activities, call 1-888-44-REHAB or request an appointment online.