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Snow Shoveling Tips

By Kathy Sinkin, RN, CDE

Shoveling snow in the winter can be dangerous. We want to get the job done, and don’t stop to give our bodies a chance to rest. Snow shoveling can place excessive stress on the back, which can cause low back strain and more. In order to avoid injury, here are some safety tips:

  1. If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance.
  2. Choose a shovel that is right for you. Be sure that the shovel has a curved handle, as this enables you to keep your back straighter when shoveling. A plastic shovel blade will generally be lighter than a metal one, thus putting less strain on your spine.
  3. Push the snow; do not lift it. Pushing puts less strain on your spine than lifting the snow. When gripping the shovel, make sure there is about a twelve inch span between your hands. By creating this distance, you increase the leverage and reduce strain on your body.
  4. If you must lift snow, squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Do not bend at the waist.
  5. Be sure your muscles are warm before you start shoveling. Cold, tight muscles are more likely to strain or sprain than warm, relaxed muscles. For this reason, it is important to take frequent breaks. This also allows you to stretch your back, arms and legs.
  6. Never throw snow over your shoulders.

By following these tips, you are far less likely to be injured while shoveling snow.

Kathy Sinkin is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


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