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Physio Tips

Tips on How to Prevent Snow Shoveling Injuries

 Proper Equipment


Wear proper footwear with good tread or anti-slip cleat attachments to reduce the risk of slipping or falling.


Weight: Use a non-stick plastic shovel with a maximal weight of 1.5 kgs. Metal shovels tend to be too heavy.

Blade: A smaller blade (10-14”) should be used for lifting and throwing snow. The smaller blade will decrease the amount of snow that will be lifted and therefore decrease the loads on the spine. A larger push style shovel can be used to push rather than lift snow.

Length of Handle: The handle should come to chest height as this will limit the amount of forward bending.

Shaft type: Ergonomic shovels with a bend in the shaft will allow you to adopt a more comfortable stance and reduce the amount of forward bending.

If the snow is sticky, spray your shovel with a lubricant or silicon spray. This will allow the snow to slide off the shovel more easily.

Ice Choppers

The repeated forceful contractions and vibrations associated with using ice choppers is stressful for the arms and shoulders. Use salt to soften or reduce the ice before chopping. The salt will also make the ice less slippery, giving you a better surface to stand on while you work.

  • Take frequent breaks and do not try to break up all the ice at one time.
  • Use both hands on the chopper so the workload is shared by both arms.


Proper Body Mechanics

Push Rather than Lift: Whenever possible, try to push the snow rather than lift it. One suggestion is to push the snow from the centre of the lane way to the sides and lift the snow from there. This will decrease the amount of lifting and throwing. Remember to push snow with a wide blade shovel and lift and throw with a small blade shovel.

Grip the shovel with your hands at least 12” apart. This will help increase your leverage.

Use Your Legs: Bend your knees, keep your back straight and tighten your core muscles and lift using your legs.

Don’t Twist: Do not twist at the waist. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow. Do not throw the snow over your shoulder as this will involve a twisting motion which will increase the stress on your spine.


  Other Injury Prevention Strategies

Pace Yourself: Shoveling is a strenuous activity. Stay hydrated and take frequent breaks. You can reduce the risk of back injury by standing up straight and walking about periodically to relax the spine. You can also perform back stretching exercises by placing your hands on your hips and gently leaning backwards.

Avoid a Full Stomach: Shovel at least 1-2 hours after eating as a full stomach can cause strain on the heart during physical activity.

Listen to your Body: If you become sore while shoveling, take a break, do a few stretches and make sure you are using proper technique. You should also be familiar with the signs of the heart attack. Many people die from heart attack because they do not seek medical attention quickly enough. Stop shoveling and call 9-1-1 if you have:

  • Unusual or prolonged shortness of breath;
  • Discomfort or heaviness in the arms, chest or neck;
  • A dizzy or faint feeling;
  • Excessive sweating , nausea or vomiting;

Do Not Remove Deep Snow All at Once: Skim off the top layer and then remove another layer. Repeat as necessary.

Keep Fit: If you are sedentary, consider starting a physical training program to ensure that your body is able to meet the physical demands of snow removal.

These simple guidelines will, hopefully allow you to enjoy injury free shoveling this winter.