Pat Staszak, PT, PYT  and owner of Andersonville Physical Therapy talks winter safety when it comes to shoveling snow. Shoveling heavy and large amounts of snow is an enormous amount of work and can cause sprains and strains, low back injuries, and even fractures. Here are some things to bear in mind for the sake of your health while performing this very physical task.

As with any exercise, preparation is important:

  • Stretch before and start slowly as your body warms up.
  • Dress in layers – as you get warmer you may want to discard a layer.
  • Wear rubber soled boots with good treads so you are less likely to slip.
  • Use a steady pace, stay hydrated and rest frequently.

Use Good Posture

As always, focus on maintaining neutral alignment as you move. Shoveling is another great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and practice mindful movement.  

  • Keep your shoulder and hips facing the load you’re lifting.
  • Sit back into your hips and use your leg muscles as you move from the squat position to lift the snow.  Keep head and chest up, your spine in neutral and engage your deep abdominals to protect you back.

  • As you bend your knees to pick up the snow, hold the snow shovel close to your  body to minimize the stress to your back. Do not overextend your arms to throw the snow, keep your spine in neutral, and if necessary, walk to the spot you will be depositing it.  
  • Don’t twist your upper body as you throw snow – always pivot your whole body

Be Smart

Snow is heavy!  Depending on the density, snow can weigh between 10 and 20 lbs per square foot.  

  • Before you start shoveling decide where you are going to place the snow so you don’t find yourself moving the snow twice!  
  • Push the snow as much as possible to reduce how far you have to throw it.  
  • Separate your hands on the shovel. By creating space between your hands, you can increase your leverage.
  • If the snow is heavy and deep, skim a couple of inches off the top or take smaller amounts of snow with each shovel-full.