By Pat Staszak, PT

We had a great run at a mild winter, but all good things must come to an end. Yesterday’s blizzard has created a lot of work for most of us. 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.

Warm up/Stretch

As with any exercise, preparation is important:

  • Stretch out your hamstrings, shoulders, and low back before and after shoveling.

  • 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.

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.

Use proper posture

  • Keep your shoulder and hips facing the load you’re lifting.

  • When lifting snow use your leg muscles as much as possible.

  • Keep your back straight (neutral) and engage your abdominals as you move from the squat position to the upright position.

  • Hold the snow shovel as close to your upper body as possible.  Do not extend your arms to throw the snow, walk it to the spot you will be depositing it.

  • Don’t twist your upper body as you throw snow – always pivot your whole body