Tips for shoveling the right way

  1. Stretch and be sure your muscles are warm before you start shoveling. Cold, tight muscles are more likely to sprain or strain than warm, relaxed muscles.

  2. Choose a snow shovel that is right for you.

  • Be sure that your shovel has a curved handle, as this enables you to keep your back straighter when shoveling.
  • Obtain a shovel with an appropriate length handle. The length is correct when you can slightly bend your knees, flex your back 10 degrees or less, and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the “shoveling stroke”.
  • A plastic shovel blade will generally be lighter than a metal one, thus putting less strain on your spine.
  • Sometimes, a smaller blade is better than a larger blade. Although a small blade can’t shovel as much, it avoids the risk of trying to pick up a too heavy pile of snow with a larger blade.
  1. Push the snow, do not lift it. Pushing puts far less strain on the spine than lifting.

  2. When you grip the shovel, make sure your hands are at least 12 inches apart. By creating distance between your hands, you increase your leverage and reduce the strain on your body.

  3. Your shoveling technique is very important. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends: “If you must lift the snow, lift it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once; do it piecemeal. Shovel and inch or two; then take another inch off. Rest and repeat if necessary.” In addition to these comments, remember to move your feet rather than twisting.

  4. Never throw snow over your shoulder.

  5. Remember that wet snow can be very heavy. One full shovel load can weigh as much as 25 pounds.

  6. Pace yourself by taking frequent breaks to gently stretch your back, arms and legs.

  7. If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance.

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