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Snow is beautiful when it’s falling but can be a lot of work to remove. In the winter months, back injuries are common due to strenuous activities like snow shoveling. Fortunately, most of these injuries can be prevented by following safe techniques…

Prepare to Shovel Snow:

  1. Warm up your muscles to prevent injury. Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Take a brisk walk, walk up/down the stairs or march in place to get your blood pumping and muscles moving.
  2. Dress in layers to stay warm. Keep your muscles warm by wearing plenty of layers – don’t forget the scarf, hat and gloves!
  3. “Wax” the shovel blade. Make the blade slippery to help prevent the snow from sticking to it. Floor wax or car wax works well but cooking spray can be used too.

Shovel Properly:

  1. Face the object you intend to lift, with your shoulders and hips both squarely facing the shovel.
  2. With feet apart, bend at the knees to lift with your legs, keeping your back straight.
  3. While shoveling, grip shovel with your hands an arm’s length apart for greater stability.
  4. Do not load too much snow on the shovel. If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortable and the other hand on the handle for better balance.
  5. Pivot your whole body to face the direction you will be moving the snow to avoid twisting your back.
  6. When lifting, keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity. 
  7. Walk to the new location to put down the snow rather than reaching or tossing it. When possible, avoid lifting and instead push the snow where you want it.

Other Tips & Tricks:

  • Work both sides of your body equally by alternating right and lefthanded shoveling.
  • Change your grip (palm up vs. palm down) on the hand holding the bar of the shovel.
  • Wear shoes or boots with good treads to minimize injury from slipping.
  • Take breaks! Take a break every 10-15 minutes to stretch your arms, shoulders and back to keep your muscles warm and flexible.

Stretch After Shoveling:

Try these three stretches after snow shoveling to help keep your muscles loose and minimize post-workout soreness. Each stretch should be held for at least 20-30 seconds and repeated 3-5 times.

  1. Doorway Stretch: stand right outside of the doorway. Place your hands on either side of the doorframe and lean in gently. You should feel a stretch in the shoulders and chest.
  2. Lower Trunk Rotation: lie flat on the floor, feet together on the ground and with both knees bent. Gently rotate your knees to one side until you feel your low back lengthen/stretch.
  3. Hamstring Stretch: sit in a chair with one leg straight in front of you, keep the heel of the straight leg on the floor. While keeping your back straight, lean forward to stretch the hamstring. Repeat with other leg.

by HealthEase fitness professional Morgan Shemonski