Protect back and heart when shoveling snow

By Carol Higgins Taylor
Posted Jan. 31, 2011, at 8:20 p.m.

Winter has a firm grip on us this year with several huge storms blanketing the state and no end in site. While snow may look beautiful when the large flakes are falling, this winter wonderland has lost its charm. Clip the column and give it a read through before you once again head out to clear away the white stuff. By now you may be an expert at shoveling, but the banks are high and there are fewer places to put the snow, which forces you to be creative about what to do with it.

Proper snow shoveling techniques can reduce your risk for back injury or a heart attack.

First of all, you should face the snow you’re about to shovel and always keep your back straight, your knees bent and throw the snow forward. Don’t throw snow over your shoulder because twisting while throwing snow behind you can cause back strain. In fact, experts recommend that you push the shovel to move the snow and avoid lifting whenever possible. This will be tricky as you may be out of room, but heed the advice as best you can. Or find someone with a snowblower to help.

Here are some other tips to help you survive the shoveling season:

Now this may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often it goes unheeded. Dress warmly and wear layers which trap air between them, providing heat. And wear a hat and scarf. Forty percent of body heat is lost through the head.

To help prevent injury, stand with your feet about hip width apart and keep the shovel close to your body. Again, remember to bend from the knees, not the back, and tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the snow. Don’t twist, tempting though it may be. If you need to move the snow to one side reposition your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.

There you have it. The next time a storm is forecast, which will probably be soon, you’ll be ready. But be careful out there. It only takes a minute to get injured but often months to recover.

And remember, if possible, think about hiring someone to shovel for you. It may cost less than you think and ensures you won’t get hurt. Plus you are giving someone a job in this weak economy. My personal plow guy is worth his weight in gold.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, e-mail or log on TTY 992-0150. printed on August 18, 2017