How to Properly Shovel Snow

by | Dec 24, 2023 | Shoveling, Snow Removal

How to shovel snow and avoid repetitive strain injuries and hypothermia

Shoveling snow is hard work, but can also be rewarding, looking back at the areas you’ve cleared of snow can give you a sense of accomplishment. No one wants to hurt themselves while doing it though. Shoveling snow incorrectly for extended periods can lead to a repetitive strain injury. There are two many risks involved with shoveling snow, one is physical injury related to the task, and the other is cold induced hypothermia.

Snow shoveling techniques

To shovel snow properly and reduce the risk of injury takes safe shoveling techniques:

  • Push the snow and don’t try to lift it
  • Grip securely and lower hand grip for more leverage
  • Keep a straight back
  • Try and keep shoulders back
  • Keep your head and neck aligned with your spine
  • Tighten your core
  • Use your legs to push, bend from your knees
  • If snow is deep, do multiple passes
  • Stand in a stagger stance, to your dominant hand side

If you are feeling sore or tired, take a break. Repetitive strain injuries occur when you use poor technique in your task for prolonged periods of time. When you’re tired your form suffers. Taking a break when tired will allow you to refocus, reset, hydrate, and get your form set again for the next round of shoveling. If you shovel snow while tired with poor form, you’ll put yourself at risk for a repetitive strain injury.

What is a repetitive strain injury?

A repetitive strain injury is a term used to describe pain caused by repeated movement of a part of the body. When shoveling snow, you might notice pain in the following areas:

  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Forearms and wrists
  • Hands and fingers

RSIs(repetitive strain injuries) are different from muscle soreness. Repetitive strain injuries have the following symptoms:

  • A burning, aching, or throbbing sensation
  • Stiffness or weakness
  • Tingling, or pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Swelling of affected area

Dress for the weather

Hypothermia is a real risk when shoveling snow. When you are moving, and doing hard work, you sweat. Especially if you’re bundled up in winter snow gear, you could be sweating and not even notice it. As you slow down, or stop working, this sweat will cause you to become cool, similar to submerging yourself in cool water. If possible, try not to over exert yourself, and keep a steady pace that doesn’t over work you.

To avoid getting too cold while shoveling snow make sure to dress for the weather:

  • Insulated jacket rated for the cold weather in your climate
  • Breathable winter jackets for less cold days
  • Avoid non-breathable materials
  • Dress in layers
  • Comfortable warm gloves that don’t compromise shovel grip
  • Grippy cold weather boots
  • Snow pants or other insulated pants
  • Face mask / balaclava

When does hypothermia set in?

In temperatures of up to -35 degrees Celsius hypothermia can set on in about 10 minutes. This obviously is subject to whether you’re dressed for the cold or not!

Hypothermia could set on quicker if you have been sweating, or if any of your clothes are damp or wet.

Don’t slip!

If there are icy conditions put down some salt or pea gravel to improve traction.

Use the right shovel for the right job

There are all sorts of shovels out there. Some best for pushing snow, others best for shoveling, and some best for clearing ice too.

Don’t forget to have fun

Shoveling snow is hard work, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Get the family out, and have a snow ball fight while you’re at it!

Did this post help?

Hopefully it did, and you can stay safe and warm when shoveling snow this season. For all your Calgary snow removal service needs, feel free to reach out to us at CSRS. We’ll be happy to help!


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