The Winter Ostomate : Shoveling Snow

The winter ostomate: shoveling show with an ostomy

Love it or hate it, winter is here, and for many people, this means shoveling snow.  For an ostomate, this could increase the risk of developing a parastomal hernia (one of my biggest fears), so it’s extremely important to take special care.

Below you’ll find some strategies to help deal with snow.

Disclaimer: Before doing any shoveling, please make sure that you’ve been given the ok from your surgeon. If you’ve had abdominal surgery in the past year, it is particularly important to take precautions; it’s better to prevent a hernia than to manage it afterwards.

Hernia Prevention Belts / Support Bands.

As the first line of protection, hernia prevention belts, and support bands can be used to provide pressure to the abdominal area that is most at risk for hernias.

These belts are often custom fit, and most insurance providers will cover them if your doctor writes a prescription for you.

Keep in mind that you’ll want a belt that offers firm support, so a regular Ostomy wrap won’t be good enough for hernia prevention.

HU-Hope is one popular brand, and their products are found through just about any medical supplier.

Here’s a video from a friend, and fellow ostomate, Megan (The Front Butt YouTuber):

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If you haven’t seen her other videos, I’d highly recommend that you check them out (and subscribe to her YouTube channel). 

Choose the Right Equipment

Shovels come in all sorts of styles, which is great because you can find one (or more) to suit your needs.

I use two shovels: one is a big-ass push-style and the other is a smaller ergonomic one.  Both can be used differently, so I find this combination works best for me.

Pair of shovels
I use large and medium-sized shovels.

You may want to invest in a shovel that isn’t very wide, so there’s less weight to move around.

Update: An ostomate friend of mine brought up another very cool product that could help:  The Heft (affiliate link)  I’ve seen swivel shovels before, and if you can find one (or The Heft), it may help to reduce back/abdominal strain.

If you have the option to buy a snow blower, it could make things a lot easier for you, since there’s nearly no lifting involved.

Focus on Technique

It’s crucial that you use good form when pushing and lifting the shovel.  Try to use your arms and legs more, and your abdominal muscles less.

I’ve when got a long driveway, so when I shovel, I focus on pushing snow from the top of my driveway to about 3/4 the way down, then I push that accumulated pile of snow off to the side little by little.  

For me, pushing is far easier than lifting snow, especially when it’s heavy snow.

Driveway snow clearing method
This is how I clear the driveway.

If you’ve got a wide driveway, push snow from the center line out towards the edges; this will be the most efficient way of clearing the snow and will minimize the number of times you’ll need to lift your shovel.

If you do have to lift snow, lift a little at a time – this is not the time for heroics! I find that lifting while twisting puts more stress on my midsection, so I avoid that when possible.

Get Help from Others

There’s no shame in asking for help if you feel that shoveling is going to put your health at risk.  It could be as easy as asking your spouse, your son or daughter, or a neighbor for an extra hand; most people are glad to help, and it can be a fun way to spend time together.

If you can’t find help in your home, look into hiring someone to shovel your driveway when the snow gets really deep, but make sure you’re going with a reputable person/company as snow shoveling service frauds are common! Sometimes even neighborhood teens will go door to door asking if anyone need help for a small fee, so take advantage of the help if it’s being offered.

If you see a neighbor across the street plowing through 2 feet of snow with a snowblower, ask if he wouldn’t mind clearing your driveway for a small fee. They may decline payment, but most will help anyways.

Additional Tips

Aside from hernia prevention, here are a few things that’ll make shoveling snow a little more enjoyable!

  • Keep hydrated. Drink something warm before you head out to tackle the driveway.  If you’re going to be out there for a while, take a thermos of warm fluids out with you (hello vegan hot chocolate!) .
  • Warm up before you start. Doing some light stretches can minimize injury.
  • Layer your clothes. I’m not your mom, but she’s probably told you 100 times that layering your clothes will keep you warm and comfortable. It’s easier to remove clothing if you get too hot or sweaty when it’s in layers.
  • Slow down! Clearing your driveway isn’t a race, so take it slow.  Injuries tend to happen more when we are in a rush or careless.
  • Take some music with you! I’ve got a Bluetooth headset that I use to stream music while I’m out shoveling; headsets will work just fine!
  • Use salt/sand on walkways.  Once you’re done shoveling, throw some salt or sand on walkways or steps approaching your front door. You’ve gone through at least one surgery, and you don’t need another one because you’ve slipped on icy steps!
  • Empty your pouch before you head outside. This will help to prevent a leak or blowout while you’re out there busting your hump!

Closing Thoughts

Use common sense if you’ve got an ostomy and need to shovel snow. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop what you’re doing and have someone else finish the job.

Question: What ways have you found to help make shoveling easier for you?

6 thoughts on “The Winter Ostomate : Shoveling Snow”

  1. Hi Eric.
    First of all I like to thank you for all your help ,you have been and still even today a great source of information for me .
    I had my surgery almost one year now and thanks to you i’m doing well.
    But I do have a hernia ,so that’s not so great.
    About shoveling snow, I’m lucky I have my neighbour doing it for me .
    Again Eric keep up with the fine work you’re doing .

    • Hi Johanna,

      Glad to hear that you’re doing well, but sorry to hear that you’ve developed a hernia :( I hope you’re able to manage that OK.

      I’m happy to hear that you have a friendly neighbor who’s able to help with the snow! I often feel like snow blowers should be covered by insurance ;)

      Take care!

  2. Hey, in Baltimore we also get snow. We have around 15 families living on our street. We live and let live all year long except for snow. Then , each of us looks out for the other.
    Still, I am afraid of slipping on ice. The path from my door till the street is 25’+/-. And there is 40’of sidewalk that must be clear. At first, I shoveled , salted and scraped ice where people stepped. Then, I got smart and realized that if I could stop the compressed snow from sticking to the frozen cement, I wouldn’t have a problem.
    SO , I spread leaves onto the walk. (The leaves came from my lawn, that i lazily didn’t rake up.)
    Next snow forecast, I spead a layer on the cement walk. After the snow stopped, I basically just swept it to the side onto the lawn. Took 6 minutes. No sweat! No salt, either.
    And no danger of slipping or of getting a heart attack.

  3. Hi Eric, Brilliant subject to cover, plus these tips are useful for all sorts of outdoor work, Can I add that the longer the shaft/handle on the shovel is better as I gives a better stance and back position. and its not a race slow and steady. Plus and one with a Ride on mower they can be fitted with a front scraper very easy. Plus clear snow before it gets walked or driven on. I know its sad folks that this is getting me excited !! I could post links to garden machinery sites but I won,t lol.


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