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How to Shovel Snow Safely

This West Coast winter, we have been having more than our usual share of snow and cold spells. We, in the Lower Mainland, are not used to this crazy weather. Snowstorms, several inches of snow, and all the chaos that goes with it! This kind of winter weather brings a lot of snow and so many problems with it. I’ve treated several patients with incidences of low back and shoulder pain after shoveling. Most people hurt themselves from sudden exertion and overloading the spine. So, I wanted to share some tips on how to shovel snow safely.

  1. Dress in layers before going out to shovel.

  2. Keep hydrated and drink lots of fluids before and after.

  3. Pace yourself by taking breaks as needed and shovel parts at a time if there is a large area.

  4. Do not twist and lift when shoveling.

  5. Push the snow instead of lifting it.

  6. Try and shovel fresh snow before it settles and gets heavier.

  7. Do not shovel until exhaustion.

  8. Use a wide body stance and bend your knees.

To prevent injury, it is good idea to warm up before and stretch after the shoveling to prevent back injuries. Here are a few simple stretches which can be done after shoveling. These stretches may be held for 15-20 seconds and repeated a couple of times on each side.

  1. Low Back and Glute Stretch: Lying down pull your knee to the opposite shoulder.

  2. Hamstring Stretch: Lying down, hold the back of your knee/thigh area and straighten your knee until a stretch is felt along the back of your leg.

  3. Quadriceps Stretch: In standing, bend your knee back behind you and hold the top of your foot. Gently pull your knee into a more bent position until a stretch is felt on the front of the thigh.

  4. Shoulder Stretch: Bring your arm across your body and hug it toward you with your other arm to feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder.

  5. Pec & Bicep Stretch: Hold a door frame with your arm straight at chest height, slowly turn body away from door until you feel a stretch through your chest and bicep.

  6. Triceps Stretch: Bend your elbow and use your other arm to raise it up near your head. Gently push the elbow up and back towards your ear until a stretch is felt along the back of your arm.

If you have a known medical condition, please consult your doctor before shoveling and if you do get aches and pains that last more than a couple of days then do consult your local, trusted physiotherapist.

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