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Shovel Snow

When Shoveling Snow Turns Dangerous: How to Remove Snow Safely

By Kristy Warren


Northeast winters often spell lots of snow to shovel off sidewalks, steps, and driveways. Shoveling snow is hard, physically taxing work that can leave us sore and sweating... but did you know it can actually be dangerous to your health? 


Shoveling snow improperly can damage joints and overwork, sprain, or tear muscles, particularly along your rotator cuff or lower back. It can also put life-threatening stress on your most important muscle: your heart. Shoveling snow can even trigger heart attacks.


Come winter, the Laurel Health Centers' expert sports medicine and chiropractic team see many injuries related to wintry weather. Follow their tips below on shoveling snow safely to avoid stress and injury:

Start gradually. Snow shoveling is vigorous exercise, and as with any workout, it’s important to start slow to warm up your muscles.

• Lift with your legs, not your back. Think of snow as lifting a package because heavy snowfall is just that: heavy! Bend at the knees and maintain a straight back when lifting snow. Avoid twisting side-to-side to throw snow over your shoulder.

Shoveling Snow Safely
Snow Boots

• Wear appropriate clothing. You'll be outside for a while—make sure you're protected from cold with warm clothes designed to stand up to outdoor temperatures. Reach for a hat, scarf, heavy winter jacket, water-resistant gloves, and insulated pants, preferably snow pants.

•  Take breaks. Come inside periodically to warm up and rest your muscles. Resting regulates your body temperature and breathing, so a short break helps keep you from overdoing it.

Enlist help with snow removal. If you are ill, a senior, or have a large area to shovel, it is best to enlist the help of loved ones or to hire someone for professional snow removal.


Invest in equipment. If you live in an area that regularly sees significant snowfall, invest in a snow blower or attachable truck / tractor plow to cut down on manual snow shoveling, or arrange for a friend or neighbor with said equipment to help you out.

Hydrate. When we feel the sting of cold weather, we often brush aside the idea of working up a sweat, but staying hydrated during strenuous activity like shoveling snow is important. If cold water is too unappetizing, try room-temperature water or tea. 


Change into warm, dry clothes. When you're done shoveling, it's important to get out of your cold, wet clothes. Take a warm shower or sit by the heater to warm up, andyou guessed ithydrate again

Person Drinking Water While Shoveling Snow

For more winter safety tips, stayed tuned to laurelhc.org or visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/laurelhc.