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Protect Yourself While Shoveling

Date: 01.20.2012
Contact: Erica Rosenthal Phone: (330) 375-3052

AKRON, Ohio, Jan. 20, 2012 – With winter in full swing, we’ve already experienced more than just a series of flurries. Along with snow and winter driving, many of us are pressed with the sometimes dreaded task of shoveling. 

For those who bundle up and brave the cold to shovel their driveways and sidewalks, there are simple tips to help prevent back injuries and frostbite, which are common during the winter months.

“Shoveling can often become a part of everyday life during the winter,” said Nilesh Shah, M.D., medical director of Summa Health System’s Summa Center for Sports Health. “It’s easy to forget that shoveling is an aerobic activity, and people who aren’t used to exercising are more susceptible to injury if they aren’t careful.”

Dr. Shah recommends these shoveling tips to help maintain an injury-free winter:

  • Warm up before shoveling. As with any physical activity, it is important to stretch your muscles before shoveling. March in place or walk around for 10 minutes to loosen muscles. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured.
  • Purchase the proper shovel. Purchase a shovel with a curved handle and a plastic blade. This allows you to keep your back straighter when shoveling, and it will be lighter than a shovel with a metal blade. Remember to buy a shovel with the appropriate handle length. To see if a shovel is the proper height, slightly bend your knees, bend your back 10 degrees and hold the shovel as though you were going to shovel, which should feel comfortable.
  • Protect yourself by using the proper form. When shoveling, stand with your feet below your hips and bend from the knees. This will give you more balance and also protects your back. When gripping the shovel, keep your hands at least 12 inches apart in order to increase your leverage and decrease possible strain on your back.
  • Technique matters. Push the snow instead of lifting it. Wet snow can be very heavy, and one shovel full of snow can weigh as much as 25 pounds.  If you must lift the shovel, be sure to bend at the knees and lift with your legs. Scoop smaller amounts of snow, and walk to where you want to dump it. If you need to move the snow from one side to another, avoid twisting movements by moving your feet in the direction the snow will be going and lift it.
  • Pace yourself.  When shoveling, be sure to take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. If you experience discomfort of any kind, stop immediately. Snow shoveling is an aerobic activity, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consult your doctor before shoveling.
  • Beat the frostbite. While outside for long periods of time, wear the proper hat, gloves and footwear. If overexposed to the cold, a part of the body may freeze, resulting in frostbite. The affected area may be numb and the skin may appear white, gray or blistered. Treat frostbite by warming the affected area and covering it up with extra layers of clothing. You can also dip the frostbitten area in warm water until normal sensation returns.

About Summa Health System
Summa Health System is one of the largest integrated healthcare delivery systems in Ohio. Encompassing a network of hospitals, community health centers, a health plan, a physician-hospital organization, a multi-specialty physician organization, research and multiple foundations, Summa is nationally renowned for excellence in patient care and for exceptional approaches to healthcare delivery. Summa's clinical services are consistently recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (Magnet® status), U.S. News and World Report, Thomson Reuters and The Leapfrog Group. Summa also is a founding partner of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron. For more information, visit or find us on Facebook at and Twitter at