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Healthy Balance

How to Shovel Snow Without Getting Hurt

Residential snow shoveling off the walkway
Back injuries are among the biggest risks from shoveling snow.

As thousands of people get hurt shoveling snow each year, a snowstorm shouldn’t be the cause of an aching back. Shoveling is one of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months. You can avoid pain and injury by following these tips:

  • Choose the right shovel. Small shovels make it less likely you’ll pick up more than your body can handle. An ergonomic shovel with a curved or adjustable handle can help minimize bending.
  • Wear shoes with good treads. This will increase traction and help reduce the chance that you’ll slip or fall.
  • Warm up. Just like any exercise, your body needs time to warm up. Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury. Move around for 5-10 minutes and do some gentle stretches.
  • Push instead of lifting. When possible, push snow out of the way instead of lifting it. A shovel full of wet snow can weigh as much as 25 pounds.
  • Lift from your legs. When you need to lift snow, bend your knees with legs apart and keep back straight. Then lift using your leg muscles, not your waist or back.
  • Avoid twisting your body. Always face in the direction of your activity. Pivot your whole body if you need to turn in a new direction, don’t twist at the waist.
  • Don’t reach. Keep the shovel close to your body when pushing, lifting or depositing snow. Reaching out in front of you can cause your muscles to strain or may result in a fall.
  • Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and if you feel that the activity is more than your body can handle, ask for help.

Injured by the winter weather?

Visit the UVA Emergency Department.

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Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

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