December 2011
Happy Holidays from Spine West!
 Winter Weather: Snow Shoveling Advice


Shoveling snow is not just another household task. It is the same as performing moderate to strenuous exercise and needs to be approached accordingly. Shoveling snow can be good exercise when performed correctly and if you keep safety in mind. Snow shoveling for 30 minutes burns 250 calories.


It is also a major source of injury for both the sedentary and physically fit alike. Over 100,000 injuries a year are caused by snow shoveling and over 16,000 caused by snow blower accidents. Possibilities include back, shoulder, and neck pain, heart attacks, inury from falls, hypothermia, and trauma or electrocution from snow blowing. The bottom line: don't be a superhero with a cape, showing off how strong you are.


Prepare and use caution:


Avoid caffeine or nicotine before shoveling snow as they can increase your heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Wear layers and shoes with good treads. Injuries from falls are usually the most damaging.
  • Muscles like to be treated with respect, so warm up with light exercise and stretching for 10 minutes before throwing yourself into the snow.
  • Don't rush. Start slowly to warm up your body. Take frequent breaks while contemplating life or simply staring at your neighbors shoveling their snow.
  • Give it time and don't be rushed. The best way to self monitor is to ask yourself: is this sort of hard or very hard? If it is very hard you need to back off. Kind of hard is as intense as you want to get.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • Trust your body. If you feel excessively tired, dizzy, or any type of pain take a break, get help, or seek medical care.
  • If you have a heart condition have someone else do the work. It's not worth the risk.


  • Invest in a good snow shovel or two.
  • Make sure the shovel fits your body size and strength type. Don't use too big of a blade!
  • Curved blades for better pushing while flatter blades for lifting and throwing.
  • Curved shafts allow for easier lifting.
  • Plastic tends to be lighter and less sticky.
  • Spraying blade with lubricant may keep the snow from sticking.
  • Some shovels come with double or wide handles that are better for pushing.



  • Start with the deepest snow first. It will need to get done eventually so you might as well get that done first. The smaller stuff can be left if necessary.
  • Try to push not lift.
  • When pushing, get square to the handle (straight behind it) and push with two hands rather than lift and throw the snow.
  • Save your back!
  • Try not to bend and twist at the same time. An image to keep in mind is: "Keep your nose over your toes."
  • Use your legs as much as possible and keep your shoulders square to your hips.
  • Tighten or pre-tense your stomach muscles when you're lifting but try not to hold your breath. Then the load is too heavy.
  • Keep a wide span of your feet and hands for leverage.
  • Don't use any back brace for support as it may keep you a false sense of confidence, causing you to lift more than you should.
  • A back brace is only useful to remind you to not bend too much. It needs to dig into your ribs in that case!
  • Stretch and "cool down" when finished.
  • Take a warm shower; you deserve it.


We hope this was helpful.





Spine West