Snow Shoveling Survival

It’s one of our least popular wintertime activities. Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders. A 2009 medical study on snow-shovel-related injuries and medical emergencies, published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, found that on average, 11,500 people across the country suffered snow-shovel-related injuries and medical emergencies every year. The study showed most of these injuries occur to men, and happen around the home.

Never try to remove deep snow all at once!

Following these tips can help you avoid injuries:


…just like you’re going to work out. Shoveling heavy, awkward snow can be quite the workout, and just like lifting weights, you can easily pull or tear muscles if they are not warmed up and stretched out.

Pace yourself

Snow shoveling is a great cardio exercise, but it’s not always the most enjoyable. Don’t try to rush through the job, take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water.

Proper equipment

Clear that white stuff with the right stuff. Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage. Some newer shovels featured an angled handle to help you find a comfortable grip and keep your back straight. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the lower back from twisting. This will help prevent “next-day back fatigue.”


While Idaho has some of the fluffiest, lightest powder on Earth, we still have to deal with wet, heavy snow when the temperature is a bit warmer. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs, do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once like the woman in the photo above! Do it in pieces. Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

Take breaks

Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.

Dress the part

Dressing warmly is as important as dressing smart. Shoveling snow is strenuous work, and sweat is a #1 enemy in retaining body heat. If you begin to sweat, shed a layer and carry on. Be sure to choose warm footwear with good tread to prevent slipping and falling.


When removing snow from a driveway or sidewalk, it can be important to have a game plan for where the snow is going to go. Chances are; this isn’t the only time you’re going to shovel, so try to imagine the pile’s accumulation as Winter continues. Will it interfere with parking or foot traffic? Piling snow too close to egress windows or against your home’s foundation can create flooding issues when the temperature goes back up.