How to Shovel Snow without Hurting Yourself

It is a winter wonderland out there. Actually it is a big icy snowy mess. As the City works at clearing our roads, you & I work at clearing our sidewalks & driveways. It is a lot of work & good exercise. However, if we are not careful, shovelling snow can lead to injuries & fatalities.

We are at risk of injuries because of the heavy workload (that we are not used to doing) & because of the cold (poor blood circulation contributes to frost bite, hypothermia & heart attacks). Injuries also result because of falls, slipping on the ice/snow. Here are 10 tips to prevent snow shovelling injuries.

Snow Shovelling Injury Prevention Tips

1)       Shovelling can be a strenuous physical activity. Do a few warm-up exercises. Move muscles through their full range of motion. Keep motions slow & controlled. Try push & pull arm motions, circle your shoulders in both directions, trunk rotations/twists & a few knee bends/squats (for example). A light cardio warm-up will also help (dance to a good song on the radio).

2)       Dress for the weather. Layer clothing with nylon or silk fibres closest to the skin. Avoid cotton. Cotton will absorb your sweat & keep it next to your skin (making you cold). Wear a hat & good gloves. Warm boots with good tread/grip are also a must. 

3)       Shovel often. Get it done before it piles up. Don’t wait until it gets wet & heavy. It takes more effort to move the heavy stuff (put less on the shovel).

4)       Use a shovel with a plastic blade (lighter in weight). The blade doesn’t have to be big. It is best to push/lift smaller amounts of snow. Smaller scoops/lighter loads will be easier on your back.

5)       Use a shovel designed for pushing snow. Pushing snow, instead of lifting it, is easier on the back.

6)       Ergonomic curved handles, can also help to reduce stress on your back. The handle should be close to your body (avoid out stretched arms). Keep the handle at waist height as you push the snow. When lifting snow, keep your hands farther apart on the handle (for leverage). 

7)       Keep your body in good alignment/posture while shovelling. Have a wider based of support with your legs. Bend at your knees & hips, tighten your stomach muscles & lift with your legs. Never lift while twisting & turning. Make sure that your toes are pointing in the direction that you are pushing/throwing (always throw snow in front of you).

8)       Take your time. Pace yourself (a slow but sure approach). Don’t overexert. Take breaks. Stay hydrated (avoid caffeine). Warm your ears, nose, fingers or toes if they get cold.

9)       Shovelling is good exercise. If you have a neighbour that can’t shovel snow due to an injury or medical condition, offer to help. Be a snow angel.

10)   If you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, check with your doctor (snow shovelling may not be recommended). We all need help sometimes. Remember, you can always hire someone to help you. Ask a neighbour’s kid, post a sign at the local convenience store or community centre or hire a snow removal service.

A back ache can be very painful & can affect your quality of life. We need strong backs for work & every day activities. Rehabilitation can be a long & costly process. Prevent injuries & cold weather emergencies in the first place. Take care when shovelling snow & stay well!