Besides the general strain that shoveling places on the heart and muscles, as well as the risk of slipping and falling, arthritis sufferers must deal with stiff, painful joints. But if you're not planning to move to Phoenix or hire someone to plow, you'll need to take action when you wake to find your driveway, walkway and sidewalk covered in the white stuff.

While cold weather doesn't directly cause arthritis, the condition is often aggravated by the cold. The reason is that falling temps cause the tissues surrounding your joints to expand, which puts pressure on the joints. This can cause stiffness and pain. The solution? Keep warm at all times. Layer up from head (warm hat) to toe (thick socks) before venturing outside. If you're going anywhere by car, turn on the car to warm it up for a few minutes before getting inside. Consider using an electric blanket in bed, and get into the habit of tossing your clothing in the dryer to warm it before putting it on. Don't forget your hot tea, coffee or cocoa before starting your day.

If you keep your body warm throughout the day and night, when it's time to actually don gloves and grab your shovel, your joints will be looser and more flexible. Here are some more tips to make your shoveling experience easier and safer:

  • Get the right shovel. A shovel that's too long, too short, or hard to grip will make the experience needlessly difficult.
  • If possible, don't wait until the show stops falling before shoveling. It's easier to clear three inches twice than it is to tackle six inches of packed powder.
  • Try to push the snow off to the side rather than lifting it. If you must lift it, squat with your knees bent to relieve pressure on your back. Don't tackle a foot of snow at once, but remove it several inches at a time. Walk with the shovel to where you want to dump the snow rather than twisting your body to throw the snow over your shoulder.
  • Go slow. No one's timing you. Take plenty of breaks and stop for water when you start to sweat or feel thirsty.


National Institutes of Health; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.