6 Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

By: Renown Wellness Team

January 10, 2023

Woman snowshoveling at her cabin

While the appearance of a winter wonderland in your yard can be a welcome one, an accompanying aspect is not: the idea of clearing your driveway and sidewalks.

The sometimes-daunting task of snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders. However, by following the tips below, you will spend more time appreciating your winter wonderland -- when your sidewalk and driveway are all clear, that is.

But, we all know that injuries happen, and if you do find yourself with back pain that does not resolve in a few days, contact your primary healthcare provider, or visit a Renown Urgent Care.

Another way to avoid injury during strenuous activity, or help heal an injury that won't go away, is to work with a physical therapist who can offer at-home exercises to keep your body strong.

6 Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

Following these tips from the American Physical Therapy Association can help you avoid injuries:

  1. Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Be sure to bend your knees and lift with your legs, rather than your back.
  2. Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier. Step in the direction where you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting to help prevent “next-day back fatigue.” 
  3. Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate this motion. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.
  4. Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.
  5. Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling. Stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips and bend slightly backward for several seconds.
  6. When in doubt, ask for help. The Reno community is a generous one and you can typically find snow shovelers for hire on local message boards like Nextdoor and Facebook. Or, if you have a kid in your neighborhood, they might be looking to make some extra money on a snow day.
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