Snow Shoveling Tips From SIUH

Written on 03/22/2018

Five snow removal tips

Thomas Verticchio, PT

Thousands of people are injured each year shoveling snow. Inclement weather can pose serious health risks if you aren’t careful.


The metro New York area has experienced several nor’easters in recent weeks, including Winter Storm Toby, which is expected to bring a foot or more of snow. Snow removal injuries include minor tweaks and back strains, especially for those with sciatica, to something as serious as a heart attack.

Here are five snow removal tips to help prevent injuries.


1. Warm up


Take five to 10 minutes to do light stretching of your back and leg muscles. Also, slowly increase your heart rate by marching in place or walking for five minutes on a treadmill. This will ease you into shoveling snow and putting less shock on your body when you begin.


2. Get the right shovel


Have a shovel that is ergonomically designed to create better body mechanics when you bend. A shovel with multiple hand holds will give you a variety of grips to accommodate body height and reduce strain. You don’t want a herniated disc in your forecast.


3. Use proper technique


When possible, choose to push rather than lift the snow. This will lighten the stress on your back. When lifting is required, reduce the amount of snow on the shovel. Maintaining good body mechanics will save you from mechanical injury. Remember to place the snow rather than quickly twisting your body and trying to throw it aside.


4. Take breaks and stay hydrated


Only spend 20-30 minutes shoveling at one time. During your short 10-15 minute break get warm and stretch. Throughout shoveling, take frequent water breaks. Leave the water bottle in the snow to keep the water extra cold.


5. Find help


Sometimes the best shoveling job is the one you didn’t have to do. If you haven’t been physically active for a while, or haven’t been cleared by your doctor, hire neighborhood kids. The positive impact you make on them can spark the entrepreneurial spirit for the CEOs of tomorrow.

Thomas Verticchio, PT, is manager of Rehabilitation Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, North. With a background in pediatric rehabilitation medicine and sports medicine, Mr. Verticchio previously supervised the pediatric physical therapy program, specializing in early childhood development. In his current role, he’s active in process improvement and developing new curriculum for patient care.