Shoveling SnowWinter is upon us and now our driveways and sidewalks are covered in snow. It’s a good time to consider how your snow shoveling routine may be impacting your physical health. The most common injuries associated with snow shoveling include sprains and strains, particularly to the back and shoulders.

There are a couple things to keep in mind as the winter season finally hits us:

  1. What snow shovel is best for me?

    • When purchasing a snow shovel a few things to look for include; the height of the shovel, the overall weight of the shovel, the width of the blade, and the shape of the handle.
      • Not too short and not too long: use a shovel that allows you to keep your back straight
      • A lighter shovel (plastic vs metal blades or fiberglass vs wood shafts) will also decrease the amount of stress placed on your back, as the snow can be plenty heavy on its own
      • A smaller blade will decrease the amount of snow removed at one time, but will lessen the load and the amount of strain on your back
      • Bent-shaft vs straight-shaft handle: a bent-shaft snow shovel can likely reduce lower back stress as it decreases the amount of motion required by the back
  2. How should I shovel?

    • When going outside to shovel, there are a few things to remember:
      • Warm-up before going out
        • A warm body/muscles work better. Your warm-up should include 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity to get your blood moving, followed by gentle stretching.
      • Maintain good stable posture
        • Pay attention to your posture. Stand with your feet hip width apart and staggered. Hold your shovel close to your body.
        • Space hands apart to increase leverage. Bend from your knees and hips, not your back.
        • Make sure you tighten your stomach muscles and avoid twisting while lifting (push snow rather than lift if possible).
        • Preferably walk to dump snow, but if throwing, throw forward and step in the direction that you are throwing.
      • Pace yourself
        • Shovel for 5-7 minutes and rest 2-3 minutes. Start slow and continue at a slow pace. When snow is deep, shovel small amounts 1-2 inches at a time. New snow is lighter than packed/partially melted snow, so it’s better to get out early and more often.

Ultimately, TRY before you BUY. Make sure the shovel fits you and your body. And always warm up before going out! Try to avoid excessive motion to your low back by using your legs and hips more. And don’t forget to take rest breaks!


Sources

https://www.moveforwardpt.com/Resources/Detail/snow-shoveling

https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/public-safety-alerts/safety-tips-prevention/home-high-rise-school-workplace-safety/snow-shovelling/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23845725