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Snow Shoveling Safety: Seven Tips to Stay Healthy

Elizabeth Buresh, PT, Good Shepherd Physical Therapy, Laurys Station

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. 

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. 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.

Wear boots and non-skid soles. Prevent falls by wearing boots with non-skid soles or consider clip-on non-skid specialty soles over boots for better traction.

Utilize good ergonomic form and posture. The techniques below will help prevent injuries from lifting, twisting and/or overreaching.  

  • Keep the 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 shovel. Today’s shovels have ergonomic designs and adjustable handles to minimize stress and bending.

Switch it up. 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. 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.

To schedule an appointment for those aches and pains, call Good Shepherd Physical Therapy at 1-888-44-REHAB (73422).