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Stop Low Back Pain While Shoveling Snow

Snow Removal

It’s that time of year again! Your driveway and walkways beckon, and it’s certainly no fun to struggle with low back pain while shoveling snow. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent it!

Some of the most common causes of injury or low back pain while shoveling snow and tips to avoid injury:

Bending improperly or overreaching can lead to back pain while shoveling snow.

Bend forward with a straight back, and abdominal muscles gently pulled in. Squat at the hips with your abs still held in. (You can still breathe, though!) Stand back up at the hips. If you use a traditional scoop shovel and have to “toss” the snow, be sure you are not tossing more than 6 to 12” away from your body. Overreaching to throw snow can place additional strain on your back and lead to a higher chance of injuring yourself.

Bending at your back and twisting at the same time.

As we mentioned before, you want to bend from your hips when shoveling snow. If you are rushed, you may end up bending from your back and twisting to toss snow simultaneously. This method is a quick way to get a herniated disc, so we don’t recommend it! It might take you a little longer, but review our previous point to avoid ending up with a costly and painful injury.

Biasing all your work to one side  

Try switching that shovel, broom, or other tools to the opposite side of your body- you will reduce your risk of injury. Doing all your work on one side can lead to muscle imbalances and make you more likely to have back pain while shoveling snow. 

A weak core 

Try breathing in, breathing out, then “shrink-wrapping” around your front, back, and sides of the thorax. Performing this maneuver (gently) before bending forward towards the ground is a helpful strategy to stabilize the low back. Working on some exercises to strengthen your deep core muscles and hip muscles can also help to prevent problems with a weak core.

Improper tools or misusing the tools you have   

Please double-check that you have the right tools for the job and those tools are sized appropriately for you. There are two primary types of shovels. Not everyone is aware of the difference:

  1. Traditional scoop shovels are the most common and work as their name implies. These shovels are designed to scoop snow and toss it. We personally like the “Snow Joe,” as it has an extra handle for better ergonomics.
  2. Pusher shovels – Pusher shovels act as snowplows. If you’re having trouble when lifting and tossing snow, this may be the better option for you. 


Working too hard without breaks  

Take at least a short 5-minute break every 15 minutes of work in the winter. Catch your breath, stretch your back, legs, and shoulders to counter all the forward bending you likely just did.

*No matter which method you use, the concept is the same: use all the available range of motion at the hips FIRST.

Are you still having back pain while shoveling snow after trying these tips? There may be some nagging, undiagnosed issue that needs some 1-on-1 attention. If your pain stops you from doing the things you love, give us a ring. We always provide a 15-minute complimentary, no-obligation phone discovery session to see if we can help or not. Chances are, we can!

Chris S

Dr. Chris Sovey

Healthy Consumer PT

"We Help Adults 40+ Living With Pain, Stiffness, Or Loose Joints Get Healthy, Age Stronger, And Get Back To The Activities They Love, Even If Past Treatments Have Failed"


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