« See all snow removal tips

Top 5 Snow Shovelling Techniques to Prevent Back Pain

How to
man shovelling

It seems after every snowfall, you can almost hear your neighbourhood’s collective groan about having to shovel snow…again.

Snow shovelling is not only a time-consuming chore, but it also a pain in the back—literally. Did you know that, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine’s 2009 study showed that 4.15% of injuries treated in US emergency departments come from people wielding a shovel improperly or were near someone using a shovel? The most common injury? Strains, sprains, contusions and abrasions, including back pain.

Back pain from shovelling snow can lead to months-long discomfort, diminished quality of life, lengthy rehabilitation and an increase in healthcare costs.

So what’s a snow-bound shoveler to do to prevent back pain after shoveling?

Consider these top 5 tips for warding off back pain from shovelling.

1- Warm up

We applaud your eagerness to jump out of bed and head outdoors to take on that mound of snow that the snow truck conveniently packed behind your car. But it’s a bad idea. For one, you are more prone to injury when your muscles are cold and tight. Your body needs time to increase blood flow before beginning any strenuous activity, like shoveling snow. That’s why it is a good idea to get your heart pumping with a brisk walk, marching in place or another full-body activity for 10 minutes.

In addition, because your neck, shoulders, back and core all work together as you drive your shovel into the snow and remove heavy snow, you need to specifically warm up these muscles to ensure you don’t suffer from back pain after shovelling snow. Research the Internet or talk to either a kinesiologist or physiotherapist to create a gentle warm-up routine before shoveling.

2- Pick the right snow shovelling gear

Low back pain from shovelling snow and upper back pain after shovelling snow can also be caused by using the wrong gear. Use an ergonomic shovel with an adjustable handle that fits your height and is sturdy enough to help you stand straighter and cause less stress on your back.

Removing snow from your roof? Opt for a long reach roof rake, such as the SnowPeeler by PolarMade, which can be a very effective and safe way to shovel snow off your home.

Footwear is also important when shovelling. In a nutshell, you need to wear boots with great traction (think: good treads) to stabilize yourself when you lift snow, especially on an icy driveway or stairs. 

3- Use the proper snow shovelling technique 

Shovelling snow requires optimized body mechanics and good posture to keep back pain at bay.

  • Face the pile of snow you want to remove.
  • Place one hand at least halfway down the shovel, near the blade, and the other on the handle to keep the weight of the snow near your body. The farther the weight is, the more strain you put on your back.
  • With your feet planted firmly on the ground and abdominal muscles slightly contracted, bend from the knees and hips (a squat)—not forward using your spine. This provides better stability and protects your joints and discs. 
  • Scoop up the snow, but make sure to keep your load of snow light. Lift the shovel using your leg muscles and keep you back straight.
  • Don’t twist your back and fling snow over your shoulder. Instead, keep your nose over your toes and pivot your body all at once to face the direction you want to walk to and gently deposit the snow. Better yet: don’t even lift the snow; just push it.

4- Take your time

Nothing screams “Honey, my back is sore!” quite like rushing to shovel your entrance and driveway like your life depended it on it. Remember, it is not the Hunger Games. Pace yourself. Shovel small amounts of snow and take a break every few minutes to shake out your back, arms and legs.

During extended snowfalls or during snowstorms, it is wiser to go out often to shovel rather than tackling huge pile in just one go. An added bonus? Snow is drier and fluffier when it first falls, making shovelling easier.

5- Keep yourself in shape

Avoid back pain from shovelling snow by staying fit with both cardio and resistance training. Regularly work out to fire up your heart and the muscles you use when you shovel. Add in gentle stretches and yoga to target muscles that can instigate low back pain from shoveling snow and upper back pain after shoveling snow.

Suffering from back pain after shovelling? Overcome the aches and pains by using a foam roller to massage your muscles or using kinesiotaping to accelerate recovery time. Use Epsom salts or alternate between ice and heat to relieve muscle soreness and reduce inflammation. Above all rest! Get the kids, a friend or a neighbour to clear your pathways. If your back pain after shovelling doesn’t subside, consult a healthcare practitioner.

Back pain from shovelling snow is a sign of overexertion and poor technique. Remember to follow these tips to ensure a back-safe winter. Happy shovelling!

Easily remove the snow accumulated on the roof with the SnowPeeler!

My shopping cart

Your cart is empty