January 12, 2024

How to shovel snow safely

Individual shoveling snow with a dog

A full snow shovel filled with wet heavy snow weighs around 16 pounds, according to the American Medical Association.

Moving that kind of weight repeatedly while trying to clear a sidewalk or driveway can have significant impact on hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. To help prepare and protect these joints the Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation therapists offer some tips to help move snow safely.

Prepare before shoveling

Ensure your body is ready for activity by taking a warm shower or engaging in light movement activities, such as unloading a warm dishwasher or walking through the home. This helps loosen joints and increases blood flow to your arms, back and legs before heading out into the cold.

Choose the right gloves

Select well-insulated gloves that are not too bulky. Too thick gloves may require tighter finger grip, increasing strain on small joint spaces. Gloves should have a nonslip/grip material inside for better grip and be in good condition without holes or tears to reduce the risk of frostbite.

Use the best tools for the job

If using a snowblower, ensure the handle's height and grip fit your body. For shoveling, consider an ergonomic/curved handle that allows your legs to do more heavy work, reducing strain on your arms and back. Choose a shovel with an appropriate blade (metal for ice, plastic for regular snow) to balance weight.

Work safely

Focus on pushing snow instead of lifting to engage more of your body. During heavy snowstorms, work in small intervals throughout the day to lighten overall loads. Take breaks as needed, especially when the intensity is high. If using a snowblower, keep hands and feet away from moving parts, and never reach your hand into the chute. Turn off the machine and disengage the clutch before clearing snow.

While we can't predict winter's duration or snowfall amount, following these tips can help prevent unnecessary pain and injuries for your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. Stay safe and enjoy a pain-free snow removal experience!