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Snow Shoveling – How to Prevent Injuries

I remembered all the aches and pains I felt last year after shoveling, so I decided to find out if I can avoid that this year. Here is what I learned.

Our first snowfall is here whether we like it or not. It is time to find the snow shovel and the salt. While doing this, I remembered all the aches and pains I felt after shoveling, so I decided to find out if I can avoid that this year. Here is what I learned:

7% of injuries and all deaths relate to heart problems. Over 11,000 adults and children are seen in the ER each year with snow-shoveling related injuries. Many of these injures occur in the morning when our back is the most unstable because the back has not felt the forces of gravity for 6 – 9 hours.

This explains part of my aches, but how long should I wait before I go outside and shovel?


It is suggested that we do our morning routine for 30 minutes or more before going outside to shovel. This gets your back use to feeling the force of gravity and gets the muscles moving. However, who wants to get up that much earlier in the morning? I know I don’t. So is there an alternative?

Yes, stretching. By stretching our arms, legs and back before and after shoveling will help the muscles warm up and reduce muscle strains. This can be done by walking around, marching in place and doing a few warm up exercises.

Also, don’t drink that cup of coffee or alcohol before heading out the door. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages may increase your heart rate and can reduce your blood flow. Water or decaffeinated drinks like herbal tea will help hydrate our body before and after you shovel the snow. Fortunately for me, I never liked the taste of coffee.

I’ve warmed up my muscles and avoided caffeinated beverages and alcohol, so now what?


Dress in layers rather than just one large coat. The layers should allow freedom of movement, and you can remove the layers to avoid becoming over heated as you shovel. Make sure nothing gets in the way of your vision, like your hat or scarf. Ice can develop under the snow, so you need to be cautious at all times.

Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear, gloves and headwear to avoid frostbite. You don’t want to be wearing loose shoes, shoes that aren’t water-resistant or footwear with smooth soles to prevent twisting your ankle, getting cold and wet feet or slipping on the ice.

I’m dressed in layers with the appropriate footwear and gloves, but how do I avoid injuries while I shovel?

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Richard Hollis January 04, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Thjey used to make kids who would go around and shovel sidewalks. I guess that it got to be too much like work. Too bad they can't make a video game out of it.
Chris (Kit) Myers January 05, 2013 at 01:13 AM
OK, here's my up-and-at-'em warm-up exercises prior to shoveling. 1) Roll over (full-body exercise) and groan (vocal cord exercise) a couple times. 2) Slowly swing legs (leg exercise) to the right and feel for the floor with feet. Blink (eyelid exercise). Stare vacantly (retina exercise) two to three minutes. 3) Groan to upright position and slowly shuffle (leg exercise) into kitchen, taking care to not overtax any cold muscles, ligaments, or joints. 5) Practice equilibrium exercise by standing in front of cupboard, still staring vacantly, prior to first arm exercises of reaching up, opening door, and removing coffee beans and grinder. 6) Wake up Mr. Coffee and curse him (second set of vocal cord exercises) for being so slow, while I turn on computer. 7) Marvel (brain exercise) at the art pictures of Marseille waterfront bar harlots that a friend insists on emailing to me. 8) Drink coffee and pace a bit. Now this may not seem like much to you but it has taken me at least two hours. It is a regimen that has served me well for lo!, these many years. Slow, and steady as she goes. It's seven! I'm off to shovel the walks at the rental!
Andrew Polcyn January 05, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Shoveling snow for money was a pretty good gig when I was younger. Though I much prefer shoveling when the snow is light and fluffy as opposed to wet and packy.
Richard Hollis January 05, 2013 at 12:48 PM
I snow blow one direction to the neighbor's driveway and the other direction around the corner and down to the next street. I feel that stopping at the property line would make me a bit of a jerk. I also do the neighbors sidewalks up to their door. It consumes about twenty minutes of mu day and certainly is appreciated.
Ed Fisher January 06, 2013 at 09:24 PM
It appears to me that most snow shovels in Stow must have broken immediately after the resident finished their driveway. It's a shame that the poor shovel couldn't have held up long enough for the sidewalk to be cleared. But at least the driveway is cleared. Who cares about those kids walking in the street ?

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