Tips for safe snow shoveling for seniors

All the snowfall lately involves clean-up, but shoveling an entire driveway, stairs or porch is strenuous work, and can strain muscles. Patty Goldammer, assistant facility rehabilitation coordinator of the therapy department at Alpena Tendercare said she has seen many muscle strains dealing with shoveling.

“Shoveling is strenuous,” Goldammer said. “Any senior that is planning on shoveling regularly should make sure they don’t have health restrictions and check with their doctor.”

Besides strained muscles, being exposed to less than ideal weather with frigid temperatures and strong winds can cause frost bite.

“Make sure and wear the proper clothing, gloves and shoes for winter conditions,” Goldammer said. “Bundle up against the elements, and try to wear slip resistant boots.”

One way to avoid straining back muscles is to shovel often, and not overload the shovel with big piles of snow. Twisting the body to throw snow can cause pulled muscles and problems with alignment.

“Try not to let the snow build up to where you have a lot to move at once,” Goldammer said. “Shovel in increments. Take breaks if you feel muscles getting tight or stand up straight and bend back slightly for 15 to 20 seconds to stretch those muscles in the opposite direction.”

Another tip to help avoid muscle strain is to make sure the shovel is the proper size for the person using it.

“If the shovel is too small, you have to lean forward even more to make up for it,” Goldammer said. “In some cases you might not know you hurt yourself until the next day, so if you feel your muscles get tighter, take a break.”

Alpena Tendercare has a free handout for anyone interested in learning more about shoveling techniques to help alleviate back strain. According to Goldammer, it’s important to listen to your body.

“Everyone knows their own body,” Goldammer said. “If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Take your time and if you do hurt yourself, go get it checked out.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.