Safety Tips for Shoveling

person shoveling snow
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Did you know that Dr. Nick pursued chiropractic because of shoveling?

Yup, that’s right.

As a teenager, Dr. Nick was shoveling and, like many of us have experienced, ended up in a world of pain. He started seeing a chiropractor, and, as they say, the rest is history.

Shoveling can often put your body into different digging, lifting, crouching, reaching, and twisting positions. And shoveling is always a bit more physically demanding than we want it to be.

We see plenty of patients come in due to back pain from shoveling. However, better than visiting your chiropractor because of a back injury due to shoveling is to avoid injury altogether (though if you’re feeling pain after a recent snowstorm, we do encourage you to make an appointment!). 

So how can you shovel more safely?

Warm Up

So, when the next snowfall comes, before you head out to shovel, be sure to warm up the muscles by doing some light stretches to loosen up the back, legs, arms, and shoulders. Check out some of our stretching videos here

Have a Plan

Next, have a plan where you are going to put the snow and don’t rush. Hurrying while shoveling can lead to unnecessary slips on ice or straining your muscles. 

Wear Appropriate Footwear

Make sure you have good traction on your boots, or wear crampons or some sort of traction cleat over your boot. 

Use an Ergonomically Designed Shovel

Choose the right shovel for the job. A large metal shovel might look like the easiest way to get the job done quickly, but sometimes a lighter plastic or ergonomically designed shovel can lead to less bending and stress to the body. 

Practice Proper Shoveling Form

To avoid overreaching and undue stress to the shoulders and back, keep the shovel close to your body. Assess how heavy the snow is before you lift a shovel full. Wet snow can be very heavy. 

Pushing snow rather than scooping it creates less stress on the body, so be sure to push the snow when possible. When you do have to lift the snow, bend your knees, squat, and lift with your legs rather than bending at your low back. 

Lifting a heavy pile while twisting can lead to joint irritation, herniated discs, muscle strain and other injuries to the spine, especially when repeated several times. When possible, rotate your body as a whole rather than twisting at the torso as you move a shovel full. 

Just like doing a workout for the first time in a while, you may not feel the soreness right away. Be sure to take breaks when shoveling and give your muscles a rest; this will give you a chance to listen to your body and realize when you’ve overdone it. 

Stay Hydrated

Lastly, shoveling snow can be sweaty work, so be sure to stay hydrated!