How to avoid injury while shoveling snow

As the days grow shorter, and the temperatures start to drop, it’s only a matter of time before we get a significant snow fall. And for most of us, that means shoveling.

Snow shoveling, when performed properly, is a great form of moderate physical activity, however, for those who are unaccustomed to exercise, or are using poor technique, shoveling snow can be a major risk for heart attack or injury.

Before heading outside to tackle the snow, remember to:

– Dress appropriately in several layers and wear proper footwear to avoid slipping
– Clear snow early and often. Snow is lighter and easier to move when it first falls.
– Pace yourself and listen to your body.
– Take breaks, stretch frequently and drink plenty of water.
– Ask for help following large snowfalls.

For a clearer picture of proper technique, watch this short video where Janice Jaskolka, an ergonomist in Health, Safety and Wellness at Hamilton Health Sciences, demonstrates how to minimize strain while shoveling.

Follow these steps when shoveling snow:

  1. Warm-up and stretch, especially if you’re shoveling shortly after getting out of bed.
  2. Place your feet shoulder width apart with one foot close to the shovel. Your weight should be on the front foot.
  3. Bend your knees and use your large legs muscles to push into the snow. Fill the shovel only halfway.
  4. Lift using your legs, breathing in and tightening your stomach muscles.  Keep your back straight. Shift your body weight onto your back foot.
  5. Moving your feet, turn your body to the direction you want to place the snow.
  6. Keep the snow as close to your body as possible, and walk to where you want to place it.
  7. If possible, push snow rather than lifting, especially when wet or heavy.
Picking the correct snow shovel is just as important as using good technique!

– Chose a lightweight material and weighing no more than 3 lbs.
– Handle height should come up to the user’s chest to decrease forward bending
– Use a smaller blade shovel for lifting snow. The smaller blade will encourage less snow to be lifted, reducing risk of injury.
– Select a wide blade shovel when pushing snow.