Snow looks beautiful, but clearing it from driveways and sidewalks can be a real pain – literally. Below, we’ll look at why you may benefit from one of many ergonomic snow shovels, and which one is right for you.
Shoveling snow is a full body workout, but it’s the back muscles that bear the brunt of it. Many back and shoulder injuries sustained without much issue during younger years will rear their ugly heads now when you go to shovel off your driveway. Shovels full of snow, particularly wet snow, are surprisingly heavy. Repeatedly lifting heavy shovel loads can not only lead to a sore back, but even set off painful back spasms.
Limited Shoulder Mobility
While the back does most of the lifting, the shoulders go through near full rotations in the process of scooping snow and tossing it behind you or off to the side. Not only that, but both shoulders need to be up to the challenge as you shovel the snow to the right on one side of the driveway and then to the left on the other side. Shoulders that seem fine during daily activities may show their weaknesses when it comes to shoveling snow.
Snow is just heavy, particularly if it’s wet and slushy. Not all of us have the arm, back, and leg strength we once had, and many elderly persons in particular struggle with having the muscle capacity to wrangle full snow shovels.
It’s remarkably easy to overexert yourself in cold weather. Besides the slippery terrain that often makes us tense our muscles without even thinking about it, very few people consider warming up before heading out to shovel snow. Cold weather restricts blood flow, making our muscles less supple. You might not notice until you come inside that you tweaked your back. A motion that you do frequently in the summer might result in a strain or pulled ligament while shoveling snow.
Thankfully, there are a wide variety of ergonomic snow shovels on the market. Whether it’s old injuries, muscle weakness, or just wanting to improve your posture to avoid problems, there is a snow shovel available to fit every need.
Bent Handle Shovels
What usually comes to mind with ergonomic snow shovels are those with bent handles. These handles allow you to still grip close to the shovel blade without having to bend down so far to do so. The handle bends up to meet you, letting you keep a good posture and do more of the lifting with your legs and a straight back.
Dual Handle Shovels
These shovels have two handles – one coming out straight from the blade like a typical snow shovel, and a shorter one coming out at a sharper angle. This lets you grip this second handle with your lower hand, rather than needing to bend over to grab the main bar. This works similarly to the bent handle shovels in that it reduces how far you have to bend over, letting you do the work with a light squat and a straight back. The shorter, second handle is spring-loaded, making this a great option for those with shoulder issues in particular.
These shovels are designed for you to push the snow, rather than scoop and lift it. With the shovel blade attached to a handlebar and wheels, this shovel works more like a snowplow than a traditional shovel. It completely eliminates back and shoulder strain, and requires next to no effort to remove most snow cover. Wet and heavy snow will require more effort, but the workload will be shifted to your legs, not your back.