Snow Shoveling Safety Avoid Back Pain This Winter!

January 5, 2018 9:00 am Published by

By David Gold PT, DPT, OCSScreen Shot 2017-09-18 at 1.29.40 PM

Cold weather is coming and winter storms will inevitably dump snow on our driveways and

With Ivy Rehab offices located throughout the East Coast and the Midwest, we want individuals in our communities to be healthy and avoid experiencing a disabling episode of pain.

Shoveling can be excellent exercise if you are properly conditioned to tolerate the cardiovascular intensity and repetitive dynamic movements.

Common reasons individuals get hurt is because they are not in adequate physical condition to handle the activity and/or they utilize improper technique. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2015: More than 158,000 people were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually.

Here are some tips to stay safe when shoveling snow this winter!

Warm up

Warming up decreases your risk of injury. Avoid shoveling immediately following prolonged sitting or inactivity.

Perform light exercises to warm up before shoveling:

  • Warm up walking: 5-10 minutes at a moderate pace on a treadmill or in the neighborhood.
  • Repeated squats: 10x. Sit and stand from a chair.
  • Lower Trunk rotations: 10x ea. Lying on your back, rock your hips side to side.
  • Gentle hamstring stretch: 10 sec. hold, 10x ea.
  • Standing back bends: 10x Put your hands on your hips while standing tall and gently bend backwards while keeping your knees straight to feel a slight stretch in your lower spine.

Note: If you are currently experiencing back pain, be sure to warm up, use good mechanics, and pace yourself. Some of these exercises may be inappropriate given your current condition (check with your physical therapist).


Try to push the snow directly in front of you, avoid lifting if possible. This will significantly decrease the strain on your back.

If you need to lift the snow make sure to use proper technique. Throughout the lift engage your abdominal muscles and maintain a straight/neutral spine. Stand with your legs approximately shoulder width apart. Bend at your knees and hinge slightly forward at the hips. Maintain a strong grasp of the shovel and lift the snow that is directly in front of you and return to the upright position by straightening your knees, and tightening your buttock.

Carry the snow aside and dump it directly in front of you without twisting. Lifting a load while bending your spine forward and twisting significantly increases your risk of injury.

Don’t throw snow over your shoulder.

Choose a good shovel. A curved shovel allows you to maintain better alignment of your spine.


Take frequent breaks during shoveling.

Consider splitting up bouts of shoveling into separate sessions during the snowfall accumulation.

Avoid carrying large loads of snow. Take smaller scoops if possible.


Wear safe non-skid shoes/boots to avoid slipping.

Dress warmly!

If you experience the onset of pain in your neck, back, or shoulder stop shoveling and contact your Ivy Rehab physical therapist as soon as possible.

Stay healthy this winter!


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