With winter comes snow, and with snow comes shoveling. Snow shoveling can be the cause of muscle and ligament injuries, as well as back pain. It should be treated the same way as any sport—warm-up and cool down with some basic stretches and movements to increase your heart rate.
7 Steps to Easier Shoveling
- Start Slowly – shoveling can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, so warm up and cool down with stretches.
- Clear Off Snow as Soon as Possible – fresh snow is lighter than packed snow, so the job is easier.
- Push Snow Out of the Way – when possible, push snow off to the side rather than lifting and throwing the load.
- Don’t Overload the Shovel – fill the shovel half full and step forward when loading the shovel.
- Don’t Stoop and Lock Knees When Shoveling – that position increases the pressure on your low back, so bend your knees and keep your back straight.
- Take Breaks – if it’s a heavy job, rest awhile and return later to finish
- Stop to Stand Upright – make sure you regularly stand up straight and even stretch backward during shoveling to give your spine a break; repeat a few times in a row.
Choosing a Shovel
“Ergonomic” shovels have a bent shaft that allow you to keep your back much straighter, as you can get a good grip on the shaft without having to reach down too far. Often these shovels have an aluminum shaft, making it lighter and helping to minimize the stress that shoveling imposes on your back. Also look for a small, lightweight, plastic blade to help reduce the amount of weight that you are moving. When shopping for such ergonomic snow shovels, pick them up first and go through the motions of shoveling to see if they’re the right length for you.
When lifting even a light load, be sure to keep your feet wide apart and put your front foot close to the shovel. To lift, shift your weight to the rear foot and keep the load close to your body; turn your feet in the direction toward which you are throwing the snow rather than twisting your body. After you’re done, try to keep moving for a short time afterward—allow your muscles and your lower back to stay limber.