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After last year’s winter many people are cringing while remembering the soreness, and pain inflicted while clearing over nine feet of snow by hand. Here are some tips to get you started off right with your snow clearing endeavors this winter.

The Fitness Issue
Please, be certain that you are physically fit enough to shovel. Every year about 100 people in the United States die from shoveling snow! If you have any health risks or previous injuries related to your musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, or pulmonary system, hire someone to clear the snow or invest in a snow blower.

Dress well
Use multiple layers of clothing and socks. The general rule of thumb is thin underneath and heavy overtop. Be sure to have waterproof boots with good traction, along with sturdy, warm gloves. All of this will reduce your risk of hypothermia, slipping and falling, and developing blisters. Remove layers as you get warm, wet clothing against skin can create more of a chill and reduce your body temperature.

Equipment check
Snow shovels should be light, have small blades, be non stick, and have a long handle. Light shovels made of plastic or a light metal are ideal. Smaller shovel blades will keep you from becoming over ambitious when lifting loads of snow. Both of these features will reduce the risk of injury to your arms, shoulders, back, and legs. A long handle will keep you from stooping. Some shovel handles are bent which will allows you to push or lift with a straighter back. Carry a phone with you so you can call or text for help if needed.

Perfect your technique

Push, don’t lift snow: When possible, use your shovel like a plow. This is better for your back and will require less effort; meaning you’ll have the energy to make snow angels with the kids!

If you must lift: Once you have a manageable load of snow on your shovel, engage your core, and straighten your legs while keeping your back straight (no arching or twisting). Only lift 1-2 inches of snow at a time to keep loads manageable.

Let’s NOT do the twist. Never twist your back to unload your shovel, and never throw snow over your shoulder. Instead, move your feet in the direction in which you want to unload.

Early work means less work later

We recommend that you identify a location that can accommodate the snow, and walk the early loads of snow to the farthest point of that area. It will make the task easier as you go along. This will also ensure that you have room for snow in subsequent snowfalls, setting you up for a whole season of safe shoveling.

Listen to your body

Take breaks, hydrate, and if you feel any chest pain or unusual back, leg, or arm pain stop and seek medical treatment if needed.

Happy shoveling!

Victoria Patterson, DPT

Might have tweaked something already? Come in for a free 30 minute injury screening with a therapist matched for your needs!


How to Shovel Snow. WikiHow.

Safe Snow Shoveling. Snow and Ice Management

Why Do So Many People Die Shoveling Snow?; BBC Online.

Why Shovel Your Sidewalks? Toronto Paramedic Services.


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