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4 Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries

1. 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 other full-body warm up.
  • Stretch your low back and hamstrings with gentle stretching exercises as shown on our dynamic warm up blog. Email bryan@wrightpt.com if you would like details.
  • Limber up your arms and shoulders with a body hug that you hold for 2-3 seconds front to

2. USE SAFE 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:

  • Face towards the object you want to lift – have your shoulders, hips and feet 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 the loads that you lift light.
  • 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 the snow to its new location – always pivot your whole body to face the new direction with feet leading the way.
  • Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity – do not extend your arms beyond your body to throw the snow.
  • Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing.

3. PACE YOURSELF – Shoveling small amounts of snow frequently is less strenuous than shoveling a large pile at once.

  • If possible, removing snow over small periods 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 restore fluid to the spine.

4. 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 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.

5. CALL US AT 208-736-2574 – or stop in any of our five clinics if you would like a complimentary screen to see if your back is in proper condition for shoveling.