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As winter sets in and the snow banks begin to rise, so does the risk of incuring various orthopedic injuries. These include, but are not limited to, lacerations, bone fractures, sprains and disc herniations. Shoveling the heavy and often compacted snow can cause more pain than just a headache. While this seasonal responsibility may seem customary, it can also be dangerous.

Our well qualified physiotherapists offer snow-shoveling tips to help one avoid the emergency room:


  1. Be sure you can see what you are shoveling. Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces as these can lead to slips and falls.
  2. Warm-up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity.  Before digging in, jog in place or run up the stairs and stretch to get your muscles warmed up.
  3. Pace yourself. Snow shoveling and blowing are aerobic activities. Take frequent breaks (every 15 minutes), stand up straight and walk around.  If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, stop shoveling/blowing and seek emergency care.
  4. A snow blower is a terrific piece of machinery but if not used correctly you can strain or injure your back. Snow blowers are designed to remove snow at a particular rate of speed. Let it do the work for you – pushing or forcing the equipment to go faster is defeating its purpose and can predispose you to low back pain and injury.
  5. Most shovels contribute to injuries because of their non-ergonomic design, which hasn’t changed in over a century. Given that each shovelful of snow can weigh approximately 20 pounds (9 kg) use an ergonomic shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. These are typically much lighter than normal shovels and have a contoured handle that is designed to reduce or eliminate bending as well as facilitate lifting.
  6. Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist.
  7. 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. Do it in pieces.
  8. 8.   Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion of the spine which may stress and injure the discs in your back.
  9. Try to clear snow early and often. Begin shoveling/blowing when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid dealing with packed, heavy snow.
  10. Listen to your body. Pay attention to your body’s signals, such as pains, shortness of breath, or chest discomfort.


    Do not let this winter season get the best of you! Make sure that all snow removal activity is exercised cautiously with the proper form and approach.  Using your tools adequately and efficiently will help ensure that this wintry obligation be a headache and pain free experience.



Monica Trozzo, BSc PhT

Monica completed her physiotherapy degree and graduated from McGill University in 2008. She immediately joined the multidisciplinary team at one of Montreal’s most recognized private physiotherapy clinics. While there, Monica worked closely with a variety of professionals including occupational therapists, osteopaths, massage therapists, and orthopedic doctors which enabled her to fully appreciate the health benefits and advantages a multidisciplinary approach can bring to her clients. She was highly involved in supervising future physiotherapists during their internships and was responsible for mentoring and assisting new therapists.
Monica is currently working towards her McKenzie certification which will allow her to specialize in the treatment of neck and back pain. She currently specializes in the treatment of jaw/TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain and dysfunction and has also taken many post-graduate courses specific to the effective evaluation and management of orthopedic conditions.

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Cappino Physiotherapy and Wellness Center offers innovative, hands-on treatment techniques to heal injuries faster and to improve quality of life.

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