Avoid Injury While Shoveling Snow

March 3, 2023

Person shoveling snow in driveway during winter snowstorm.

It’s March! In Northern Colorado, that means you are patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting spring. It also means there will still be more snow to shovel! Spring snow tends to be wetter and heavier than the dry snow we typically have earlier in the winter, making snow shoveling even harder work.  

It’s important to be aware that shoveling snow can lead to cardiac events because of the increased demand on the heart. That is certainly nothing to take lightly. For your safety, know the dangers, take short breaks, and if you have cardiac issues, consult with your physician before you pick up the shovel.  

Shoveling snow can also lead to acute low back pain and injury. While not as potentially dangerous as cardiac events, a low back injury can significantly limit your ability to participate in daily activities. The tips below can help you avoid a low back injury while shoveling.  

  • Warm up!  

And I don’t mean by the fireside. Marching or jogging in place increases your heart rate, blood flow, and the delivery of oxygen to your muscles. Warm muscles work better and are less prone to injury.   

  • Use an ergonomic shovel if you have access to one. A shovel that is lightweight and has a bent, offset handle makes it easier to get the job done.   
  • Watch your technique. Pushing snow instead of scooping and lifting is easier on your heart and your low back. If you have to lift, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and use your legs, not your back, by keeping your knees bent and your back flat when you’re working. Keep the load close to your body as you lift the shovel and turn your body toward the place where you are dumping the snow (a much safer technique than tossing snow over your shoulder).   
  • Take breaks! Move at a steady pace and shovel for 5 minutes. Then take a 30-second break and start again. Repeat taking short breaks until you’re done. You can also stretch  during your breaks by rolling your shoulders or bending toward your toes to help reduce the stress on your spine.  

If you’re reading this too late and have already injured your back shoveling, let our highly skilled physical therapists at Adeo Physical Therapy get you back on the road to recovery. Physical therapists are movement experts and the most qualified professionals to help you rehab a low back injury. Physical therapists can also teach you how to bend and lift properly to avoid future low back injuries. Make sure you can spring into spring this year. Call Adeo Physical Therapy today at 970-339-0011 to schedule an appointment.