Snow shoveller

Safe and healthy snow shovelling

Dr. Vic Weatherall
Updated December 2017

When it’s time to get out the snow shovel, take a few minutes to consider how to perform safe and healthy snow shovelling. Although snow shovelling injuries are most common at the beginning of the season, they can surprise you at any time. Typical problems include sore, pulled muscles and ligaments in the shoulders, back, and legs. However, if you are out of shape or have heart or other cardiovascular problems, don’t shovel snow unless your medical doctor says it’s acceptable.

Here are some important tips to make your shovelling as safe as possible:

  • Warm up your muscles first—shovelling is like any other exercise activity.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and take frequent breaks.
  • Wear warm, dry gloves to avoid blisters.
  • Wear footwear with a good grip—don’t fall!
  • Shovel earlier and more often—don’t let it build up.
  • Use a shovel with a smaller blade or take smaller shovelfuls, especially if the show is wet.
  • Space your hands far enough apart on the handle to get good leverage, but not so far apart that you are stooped over.
  • Keep the shovel close to your body—don’t lean out too far.
  • Don’t twist at the waist too much—use a forward motion whenever possible and push the snow.
  • If you have to throw the snow, lift with your legs and bend at your knees.
  • Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder.

Finally, consider using a snowblower if you are at a higher health risk, but make sure it starts easily and is in good working order.

Dig in!


For additional downloadable tips, see Lift Light, Shovel Right (external link)

Contact Dr. Weatherall if you have any questions or to see if he can help you with a problem.