The Proper Snow Shoveling Techniques

It may be hard to believe, but it’s that time of season again — it’s time to think about snow removal! When it comes to snow removal around your home you may think you’re a pro by now, but every year hundreds of people injure their backs snow shoveling.

Snow removal may be a necessity if it snows frequently, but it’s a necessity that needs to be carefully undertaken. In order to prevent back injuries when snow shoveling, properly stretching before and in between your winter workout is a must. Two good stretches to perform when snow shoveling are as followed:

  •  Stand with your snow shovel in front of you and hold the handles with both hands. Walk your feet back while lowering your chest and stopping once your feet are under your hips. Relax your head, draw your shoulders away from your ears, and stay in that position for 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  •  From the forward bending stretch, to get a deeper stretch in your lower back and hamstrings when snow shoveling stand up and walk a few inches towards the snow shovel. Place your right heel on the top of the snow shovel and fold forward over your right leg, keeping your left leg straight. Holding the top of your snow shovel with your right hand, rest your left hand as far down on the handle you can. Stay here for about 30 seconds and move onto the left leg.

The following article from offers more great snow shoveling tips so you can perform proper snow removal without injuring your back.

Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries

One of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months is snow removal. Using the wrong body mechanics when shoveling snow can put undue stress on the lower back and lead to a painful muscle strain, or possibly more serious back injuries, such as a herniated disc or disc degeneration .

The following snow removal tips can help you to avoid low back injuries and pain during the snowy winter season.

Pick the Right Snow Shovel

An ergonomic snow shovel can help take some of the effort out of your snow removal chores. A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize painful bending, requiring you to bend your knees only slightly and arch your back very slightly while keeping the shovel blade on the ground. In addition, a small, lightweight, plastic blade helps reduce the amount of weight that you are moving.

Warm Up Thoroughly

Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles. Do your back a favor by warming up for five to ten minutes before shoveling or any strenuous activity. Get your blood moving with a brisk walk, marching in place, or another full-body activity. Then, stretch your low back and hamstrings (the large muscles in the back of the thigh) with some gentle stretching exercises. Limber up your arms and shoulders with a body hug.

Pace Yourself

Shoveling small amounts of snow frequently is less strenuous than shoveling a large pile at once. If possible, removing snow over a period of days will lessen the strain on the back and arms. In deep snow, remove a few inches off the top at a time, rather than attempting to shovel the full depth at once. When shoveling, take a break for a minute or two every 10-15 minutes or if you feel overworked at any point. Use this opportunity to stretch your arms, shoulders, and back to keep them warm and flexible.

Use Ergonomic Lifting Techniques

Whenever possible, push the snow to one side rather than lifting it. When lifting the snow shovel is necessary, make sure to use ergonomic lifting techniques:

  • Always face towards the object you intend to lift (ie have your shoulders and hips both squarely facing it)
  • Bend at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight
  • Keep your loads light and do not lift an object that is too heavy for you
  • If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle (handle and arm length will vary the technique)
  • Avoid twisting the back to move your object to its new location – always pivot your whole body to face the new direction
  • Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity – do not extend your arms to throw the snow
  • Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing
    When gripping the shovel, keep your hands about 12 inches apart to provide greater stability and minimize the chances of injuring your low back.

Keep Your Feet on the Ground

Slippery conditions while shoveling can lead to slipping and/or falls and strains that can injure your back. Shoes or boots with good treads will help to minimize injuries from slipping. Spreading sand, rock salt, or kitty litter on your sidewalk or driveway will increase traction and reduce the likelihood of slipping on the ice.

If Possible, Stop Shoveling – Use a Snow Blower Instead

When used correctly, a snow blower can put less stress on your low back than shoveling. Avoid stressing your back by using the power of your legs to push the snow blower while keeping your back straight and knees bent.

These tips can help to make snow removal less of a strain on your low back. Keeping these guidelines in mind during the winter season will lessen the chances of a developing new back problems or worsening your low back pain while shoveling, and hopefully make your winter a healthier and more enjoyable experience.

Though snow shoveling is a good workout and may even be enjoyable to some, you must be cautious when it comes to your snow shoveling techniques. If you already have back problems or don’t feel comfortable performing the snow removal yourself, there are different types of snow tools that you can purchase. There are now snow shovels that are designed for people with back problems, as well as sidewalk salt which will helps melt the snow and prevent you from having to shovel altogether. Also, there is always the snow blower. It’s a large investment but after the first couple snow storms, and the multiple back injuries you save yourself, they can be well worth the cost.

If the time comes that you forget these snow removal techniques and happen to injure your back, always remember that you can contact DeFalco Family Chiropractic. Though we do not want to see anyone injured, we are here to help ease the pain if it happens!