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Chiropractic Snow Shoveling Tips

Chiropractic Tips for Snow Removal

Winter is here and snow removal is a major problem for many people. The following tips are offered for shoveling driveways and walks:


  • Warm-up. Before beginning any snow removal, warm-up for five to ten minutes to get the joints moving and increase blood circulation. A good warm-up should include stretches for the back, shoulders, arms and legs. This will ensure that your body is ready for action.


  • Pick the right shovel for you. Use a shovel appropriate in length and weight to your height and strength.  A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body.  Shovels are made from different materials and come in many shapes and sizes.   Choose a shovel that is ergonomically correct—a shovel with a curved handle. Many hardware stores and home centers stock ergonomically designed snow shovels. These shovels help you to keep your back straighter reducing spinal stress.  Consider a shovel with a plastic blade instead of metal—plastic is lightweight—isn’t the snow heavy enough?  Sometimes a smaller blade is better. You will not be able to shovel as much snow per shovel load, but the load will weigh less, which puts less strain on the spine.  Get a shovel made to push snow. It is far easier to push snow than to lift it. There are shovels made expressly for pushing snow. See what is available at your hardware or home center store.


  • Push, don't throw. Push the snow to one side and avoid throwing it as much as possible. If you have to throw, avoid twisting and turning - position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile.  Address your task directly. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart to maintain balance. Try to keep the shovel close to your body. Bend at the knees—not the waist or back. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Lift with your legs—not your back. Do not twist your body.  If you need to move the snow to the side, move your feet—do not twist!  Deposit the snow close to where you are shoveling, to avoid heaving it across a wide area.


This should be a no-brainer. In order to move 1000 pounds of snow, we could lift massive amounts of 50 pound-fulls of snow in the shovel with each toss and get it done it 20 tosses, with the added bonus of low back pain for days ahead. OR, surprise surprise, you can decrease the load, increase the tosses involved, and avoid the dreaded low back bonus.



·        Shovel at too rapid a pace. Work at a pace fitting to your age and strength.

·        Lift snow with your back.  Bending and twisting the spine are common causes of disc and ligament damage.  Use your arms and body to deposit snow in one smooth motion.

·        Shovel with your feet planted firmly in one spot.  Allow your legs and thighs to help your upper body and arms deposit the snow to the side.

·        Lift large amounts of snow in one scoop of the shovel.  To avoid back strain, shovel light to moderate amounts of snow per load.

·        Overwork yourself. If you are huffing and puffing, stop immediately and rest.



And consider this before shoveling


Those most at risk for a heart attack include:


  • Anyone who has already had a heart attack.
  • Individuals with a history of heart disease.
  • Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
  • Smokers.
  • Individuals leading a sedentary lifestyle.


Be heart healthy and back friendly while shoveling this winter with these tips:

If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you take on the task of shoveling snow.

Be heart smart!
Don’t eat or smoke before shoveling snow. Avoid caffeinated beverages. These are stimulants and may increase heart rate and cause blood vessels to constrict.

If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance.

Pace yourself during shoveling activities.
Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. Snow shoveling is strenuous work, and it is important to re-hydrate your body often.


Be kind to your spine!  It's always wise to have a Doctor of Chiropractic examine your spine to make sure that it is up to all strenuous physical activities, especially the rigors of snow shoveling.


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