Don’t Break Your Back Shoveling Snow

Hopefully, this is the last snow fall of 2017. People love the snowflakes coming down during the joyful winter season but they hate what comes with it: freezing rain and snowstorms. Rightfully, with accumulation of the snow on driveways and sidewalks, people become more cautious doing activities such as walking and shoveling during the winter due to the risk of a slip and fall in addition to hurting your back. Whether we like or not shoveling snow is a part of Canadian winter unless you are a lucky snowbird or live in a condominium or apartment.

Protect your back while shoveling snow. Shoveling snow is a physical activity that engages many muscle groups including back , legs, arms and abdomen. It can be an intensive cardiovascular activity and for people who are not regularly active, this can pose a health risk. Giving attention to proper body mechanics and paying attention to the warning signs of overloading cardiovascular system are good practices to prevent back injuries while shoveling snow.

Listed below are reminders that can help you prevent back injuries from occurring

when shoveling the snow:

  1. Waking Up – Don’t shovel just after you’ve woken up because there is a build-up of fluid in your vertebral discs from lying down all night. This is when a back injury is most likely to occur.
  2. Warming Up – Going for a walk inside your place for 15-30 minutes can do a lot of good for your body before going to shovel. Cold and tight muscles are more likely to get sprained/strained than warm and relaxed muscles.
  3. The Right Shovel – Choosing a shovel with a curved handle is very important because it helps you to keep your back straight when shoveling, as the shovel mainly does the work for you, and it puts less stress on the spine. Also, using a smaller plastic shovel is easier and lighter to carry than a metal one, and it reduces the amount of snow your able to lift at a time, ultimately easing the strain on your body when shoveling.
  4. Push, Don’t Lift – When a lot of snow accumulates, it can become very heavy. At times like that, it is better to push the snow than it is to lift it, as pushing is an easier task than lifting when dealing with heavy objects. If you choose to lift the snow when shoveling, only do so when there is a very small accumulation of it
  5. Bending The Knees – When lifting snow, it is better for you to bend your knees than it is to bend from your waist, as more power is generated from your legs than it is from your back.
  6. Dress Appropriately – Wear winter boots with firm grip, jacket and thick gloves that allow you to have a good grip on the handle. Also, if there some areas that are icy, apply salt to the areas and allow it to melt before you start shoveling.
  7. Pace Yourself – Shoveling snow takes time and you shouldn’t try to complete the task in a short time period. It requires patience. When there is a lot of snow build up, it will required more time to get it done. Take a break when you start to get tired and experience pain. Listen to your body, stop, stretch and continue again later.
  8. Core Strengthening – One reason why many people get back injuries is due to weak core muscles. In order to prevent back injuries from shoveling, one must strengthen the core muscles, which not only decreases the pressure on the back, it also supports the upper and lower parts of the body when being involved in tasks such as pushing the shovel and bending the knees.


It is estimated that 85% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some time during their life. If you suffer from back pain or want to learn how to prevent it, call North York physiotherapy clinic to book a consultation or appointment.


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