Snow Shoveling Basics


A New Year means resolutions. Mine begins with at least a monthly note for healthy living sent to all our Facebook friends.  So far this winter has not brought much snow; but we all know that it is right around the corner.  Dan and I see a fair amount of back pain from snow shoveling, especially on those wet snow days.  I thought it would be great to review some basics of back care to save some of you the pain that comes with improper movement patterns.

The information I have used is referenced by the APTA association.

Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders.  Follow these tips to avoid injury:

  • Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls.  Be sure to take care to bend your hips and knees rather than your back.
  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting.  A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load.  Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight heavier at the end.  Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting.  This will help prevent “next day fatigue.”
  • Avoid twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements.  Keep your back straight and try and rotate through the hips to avoid back strain.
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling.  Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend your back.
  • Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling:  stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backwards slightly for several seconds.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing back pain, come in and see us at Advanced Motion Physical Therapy.  We can help you regain your mobility and your life.

Remember this information is not meant to take place of medical treatment.  Consult your doctor or physical therapist if needed.

Have a Healthy New Year and tell your friends to “like” us on Facebook to receive healthy tips through the year.

Lance Dougher DPT, MTC

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