Proper Shoveling Techniques

 

Shovel Selection

Choose a shovel that is ergonomically correct – a shovel with a curved handle. These shovels help you to keep your back straighter reducing spinal stress.

For snow, consider a shovel with a plastic blade instead of metal – plastic is lightweight – isn’t the snow heavy enough?

Sometimes a smaller blade is better. You will not be able to shovel as much per shovel load, but the load will weigh less, which puts less strain on the spine.

 

Technique

Warm muscles work better. Take some time to stretch to prepare your body for activity.

Just like with a golf club, hand placement on the shovel handle is very important! Don’t put your hands (grip) close to one another. Create some distance between the hands. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to lift snow.

Think about good posture and maintaining the natural curve of your spine.

Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart to maintain balance. Try to keep the shovel close to your body. Bend at the knees, not the waist or back. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Lift with your legs, not your back. Do not twist your body, instead, step in the direction that you are throwing the snow or dirt. This will help prevent the lower back from twisting and alleviate any back soreness that you might typically experience.

Don’t throw snow or dirt over your shoulder! Go forward with it.

Fresh snow is lighter in weight – so clear snow as soon as it has fallen. Snow becomes dense as it compacts on the ground.  Wet snow is very heavy. One shovelful can weigh 20 pounds or more!

Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks to stretch your back and extremities.

 

Digging holes

Make sure that the shovel head is perpendicular to the soil’s surface when you push the shovel blade in. And if you can’t push it in with one foot, if you have to jump with both feet to drive it in, then you need a backhoe or a pry bar to dig this hole.

When you’re going to lift the dirt out of the hole, hold the shovel near the middle of the handle and use the upward momentum of lifting the soil out to throw it into the wheelbarrow or onto a tarp. Don’t be at the end of the shovel and don’t be down close to the head. Both cause strain on your back.

When you encounter roots, remember your shovel is not a pry bar, but it can be a chopping tool. Turn it around and cut cleanly through the roots that you encounter, and then lift them out of the hole into the wheelbarrow. Shoveling is all about keeping your back straight.

If you have injured yourself while shoveling or have any questions, give PRO Physical Therapy a call.

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