Shoveling Smarts

Now is the time to start preparing for snow: Use these tips and tricks to keep you moving!

New Englanders know best: shoveling snow is a remarkably strenuous activity! In our clinic, we see many folks each season with injuries, particularly after the first few snows as they get back to it after the “offseason.” That’s why this is the time to start thinking smart and thinking ahead with a plan. Start by surveying what areas you are going to need to clear throughout the season. How much of it can you regularly manage with just you and your shovel? Are you limited on time or have a medical condition that would limit your ability to comfortably shovel? If so, consider options for snow blowing, either yourself or through a service, to move the majority of the snow. If you are going to tackle it all between you and your shovel though, we have some tips and tricks to keep you moving.

Shovel Smarts:

  • Warm up: Prepare your muscles and get your heart pumping by moving and stretching.
  • Use the Right Tools: Snow conditions vary. They may be best handled with different shovels or tools. See our guide below for recommendations.
  • Push first: Leg muscles are designed for power; our backs, not so much. Push the snow when you can, generating power from your legs and using your forward momentum, and move it as close to the disposal location as you can.
  • Lifting/Throwing Mechanics: Squat down and lift the snow, again using your legs to generate power instead of your back. Stepping in the direction you are moving the snow reduces the amount of twisting that can cause additional stress.
  • Know Your Limits: Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.
These precautions can help you avoid pain and injury, but accidents can still happen out in the elements. Know that if winter gets the better of you, we’re here to help!

Snow Shovel Guide

Physical Therapist Picks to Reduce Back Pain and Injuries

Here in New England, the snow comes at us in all types, so it’s a good idea to have at least two types of shovels on hand. We recommend having a flatter scooping shovel to cut thr  ough deep or dense drifts (like the ones created by a snow plow) and a more rounded pushing shovel for scooping up and transporting looser snow. With that in mind, here are our picks:
Storage Tip! Store your shovels where it’s cold. Snow sticks to a warm shovel and adds strain to the job. If you have trouble with a sticky shovel, try a light coating of cooking spray on the blade.

Push It! Always push first to reduce lifting and throwing heavy loads.

We recommend “Sleigh” shovels, which have a large capacity, glide easily over the ground, and can even be pushed up over small/medium snow banks.

Ergonomic Designs: Handles that reduce the strain on your back

A sharp bend in the shaft reduces the need to bend over and prevents you from lifting heavy scoops which, while frustrating, is generally better for your back. This can also be accomplished with two handles, which keep you more upright and also helps to redistribute and balance weight between your hands. These can be purchased built in or as an add-on attachment to your favorite scooper!

Go Hi-Tech: Let an electric snow shovel do the work for you

While not as powerful as larger, gas-operated snow blowers counterparts, they are more affordable, convenient, and can still pack a punch!

“Informative, enjoyable, and most importantly, effective… The simple exercises [for my ankle and back] that Howard taught me worked immediately, and now I am back to normal and pain free.” -Peter Orgain
Physical Therapy
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