6 Tips for How to Shovel Snow Safely

Whether you live in Williamsville, Buffalo, or anywhere in the northeast, you likely need to shovel snow during the winter. Find out some tips to help you shovel snow safely.

Push snow shovel and lift snow shovel
Push shovel vs. lift shovel

1. Have the right tool for the job
You’ll need a shovel for pushing snow, and a shovel for lifting and moving snow. You can see an example of both snow shovels in the photo.

We’ll discuss how to properly use each of these shovels in tips 2 and 3.

If you have a larger driveway and want to do the work yourself, then save your back and body and invest in a snowblower or snowplow.

Woman demonstrates good snow shoveling technique with a push snow shovel | Phipps Soft Tissue & Spine
Pushing snow midline instead of to one side will reduce back strain

2. Push the snow!
Pushing the snow puts less strain on your back than trying to lift and move it. When pushing the snow, it’s best to have the shovel directly in midline instead of off to one side. Keep your body upright and engage your core.
Go slow! If you push too fast and your shovel gets caught on something, then the handle will jab into your abdomen. (Another reason to keep your core tight. 😉)

Woman shows good snow shoveling technique with a lift snow shovel | Phipps Soft Tissue & Spine
Moving your feet and turning your body as a single unit can put less strain on your back while moving snow

3. When lifting snow use the right shovel and technique
When lifting snow, shovels with the curved ergonomic handles are better for your back. The curve allows you to be more upright when lifting, putting less strain on your low back.

If you have to lift and move snow, make sure you move your feet and turn your entire body as a single unit. Twisting and flexing when you’re holding weight away from your body is an easy way to herniate a disc in your spine.

4. Don’t pick up too much snow at a time
If the snow is heavy and wet, then it’s better to take more smaller loads of snow. The more weight that’s on the end of your shovel will increase the torque and strain on your low back, shoulders, and neck.

5. Treat shoveling like a workout
Warm up before shoveling. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated or take much time. Wide shoulder circles, jumping jacks, lunges, squats, toe touches, wrist circles are a few of the many possibilities. Start with something that’s easier on your body, and progress to more demanding tasks.

6. Check with your doctor
If you have a history of heart problems; a condition that increases your heart attack risk such as hypertension, high cholesterol, being overweight, being a smoker; or rarely physically exert yourself; then you should check with your doctor before shoveling. Shoveling can quickly place a large demand on your heart. If your heart doesn’t get enough blood because the blood vessels that supply your heart are narrowed, then you can have a heart attack. Your doctor can provide further snow shoveling guidance if you have a condition that could increase your risk of having a heart attack.