Snow Shoveling Safety

Facts about Snow Shoveling from a study which appeared in the American 

Shoveling Snow Properly

Journal of Emergency Medicine:

  •  From 1990 to 2006 there were an average of 11,500 emergency department visits annually in the US involving manual snow removal.
  •  The most common injury diagnosis was soft tissue injuries (55 percent), lacerations (16 percent) and fractures (7 percent)
  • The lower back was the most frequently injured region of all (34 percent)
  • Injuries to the arms, hands and head are prevalent (15 percent)
  • Acute musculoskeletal exertion was also a problem (54 percent) as was slips and falls (20 percent)
  • Being struck by a snow shovel was also a factor (20 Percent) 

14 Tips to Avoid Snow Shoveling Injuries:

  •  Shoveling is like exercise — it raises your heart rate and blood pressure so pace yourself, take it easy
  • Warm up before you start — stretch your body to get it prepared for the upcoming activity
  • Stay ahead of the snow— clear snow periodically rather than waiting for the snow to end
  • Push Snow –pushing snow out of the way rather than lifting it is easier on your back
  • Smaller Is Better — Pick up small amounts of snow with your shovel or use a smaller shovel.  This will be less strenuous on your back
  • Your feet are important — make sure to wear quality waterproof shoes or boots with traction to prevent slips and falls
  • Try to shove in the afternoon.  It is reported that more disc injuries occur in the morning due to increased fluid pressure in the disc area
  • Posture will minimize the chance of injury
    • Make sure you have the right shovel for the job
    • Your grip is important — Keep both hands apart with one hand near the shovel for leverage
    • Posture — When you life the snow, do so by keeping your legs apart, bend legs and keep a straight back.  This provides less stress on the spine
    • Use your leg and shoulder muscles
    • Be careful not to twist or jerk your body when moving snow
  • Freshly fallen snow is easier to shovel than wet snow
  • Breaks are important.  Stand up straight and walk around to extend you lower back and to give it a break
  • Stretch — as with any exercise this is important when you have completed the task
  • Pain — if you feel pain, stop.  It you continue it can make the problem worse
  • Make you sure you are hydrated
  • If you are sore, use an ice pack or ibuprofen and place on the muscle


About Dr. Pensavalle:

Dr. Attilio S. Pensavalle is the founder of OrthoBalance Physical Therapy located in Great Neck, NY.  The practice is dedicated to the care and treatment of orthopedic, neuromusculoskeletal and vestibular disorders for balance recovery and fall prevention utilizing state-of-the-art NeuroCom balance assessment and retraining technology.

Dr. Pensavalle’s extensive experience during the past 32 years spans a broad spectrum of professional areas, encompassing orthopedic clinical treatment, clinical education, advanced manual therapeutics and assessment and treatment of balance impairment, fall risk management and injury prevention.  Dr. Pensavalle received his undergraduate and advanced Doctoral degrees in Physical Therapy from New York University, and completed his orthopedic clinical training at New York City’s most prestigious medical centers, including NYU/Bellevue and Lenox Hill hospitals.