5 Ways to Protect Your Back When Shoveling Snow

5 Ways to Protect Your Back When Shoveling Snow

Do you have a pile of snow in your walkway, driveway, or around other parts of your house?

Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do – and this may include SHOVELING SNOW!

Not many people enjoy shoveling snow, but it’s something that JUST has to happen! Unfortunately, there are DANGERS and RISKS associated with shoveling snow.

Ahh yes, you may have some ideas about this already. According to the American Heart Association, cold weather temperatures and the increased workload on the heart increase the risk of a heart attack when shoveling snow [1]. Apart from your heart, your BACK could also suffer while you shovel snow.

risks to shoveling snow

It may seem like a really simple job – I mean, shoveling snow – BUT, don’t be deceived – shoveling snow can be hard work. Yes, the bright white, seemingly attractive stuff on your lawn can actually be wet and heavy! Worse… it can hurt your back while you attempt to shovel it. The number of people who hurt their back each year while shoveling snow is astounding! Did you know that over 11,000 people visit the hospital each year as a result of shoveling snow? [2]. Who knew that SHOVELING SNOW could be so risky!

Apart from hurting the back, there have been occasions where people who were shoveling snow died! Yes… the heart attacks I mentioned earlier… may sound EXTREME, but it does happen, especially when people live sedentary lives and then suddenly decide to shovel snow. NO! Not a good idea because the heart and other parts of the body including the back may not be quite ready for this activity.

So, what can you do with regards to the snow that needs to be shoveled?

You can’t simply ignore and hope that it melts away. There is GOOD news, though! You can protect your back as you shovel, and we’ll discuss ways through which you can do so. However, it is also important to UNDERSTAND the dangers and risks associated with shoveling snow.

This knowledge can be essential in keeping YOUR BACK safe! Apart from the back being injured or the heart being overloaded, shoveling snow could also over-work your ligaments, soft tissue, tendons, and muscles. A lot of these tissues keep our backs in good working order. Hence, strains can put unnecessary stress on the back, especially the lower back which is affected when you bend down to shovel. You could also cut yourself while shoveling snow or get hit by the shovel. Some have fallen on the shovel too! OUCH!! Yes… remember that snowfall can give rise to icy and slippery conditions, so WATCH OUT!

snow fall

All these dangers and risks associated with shoveling snow can be relevant too when trying to protect your back as you shovel snow. The more you KNOW about protecting yourself during this activity, the more likely you’ll keep your back SAFE! Here are ways to protect your back when shoveling snow!

#1 – Be Active! Really? Yes, really!

The TRUTH is that being inactive can put you at GREAT RISK, and not just with regard to shoveling snow but with almost ANYTHING. So, being active on a regular basis can be a great way to protect your back! Imagine NOT BEING ACTIVE and attempting this activity.

Well, you would give your BACK and BODY a shock!! If you are not active, your back may be in no shape to shovel snow. BUT… what does being ACTIVE mean? Don’t be alarmed! Being active does not mean running long marathon races or jumping over hurdles on a track. Instead, being active involves various types of activities where you MOVE!

Examples of activities can include a simple walk, going to the store, doing the dishes, stretching, swimming, basketball, and a whole variety of other activities that make you abstain from a sedentary lifestyle. Hence, GET UP and MOVE! This can help protect your back when shoveling snow.

exercise in the snow

#2 – Get a Good Shovel.

You need the PROPER tool to do a good job and also to keep your back safe.

Do you think the shovel you’ve got is ideal for your snow shoveling task?

It may not be. You need a good shovel to properly and safely shovel snow. Thanks to modern ergonomic studies, research, and IMPROVED product designs, BETTER shovels have emerged that minimize the risks to the body while enabling you to more efficiently shovel the snow. In the past, hand grips for shovels were less than ideal. There were also inefficiencies associated with the handle of the shovel such as the length of the handle and the impact of the shovel when it makes contact with the snow. Now, in today’s marketplace, there are shovels with adjustable handles and curved base designs that lessen the strain that shoveling snow can have on the back. So, look out for BETTER shovels in your local store!

#3 – Watch for Slips and Falls.

Another way to hurt your back while shoveling snow is to FALL.

Yes, another big OUCH! Imagine falling and not being able to get up. NOT a fun thought! No, nobody likes falling, and falling on a hard surface can be many times as painful. Another SCARY aspect related to falling while shoveling snow is with regards to the PARTIAL or COMPLETE loss of control a person could feel while slipping and falling on ice! The ground could be so slippery that it causes you to lose balance and before you know it… WOOOSH!  Such injuries can be quite severe. Hence, watch for the potential for slips and falls. Place your feet carefully as you shovel. Wear proper shoes and boots. Wear shoes with great traction! Do not stand on slippery ice. ENSURE that your feet are steadily on firm ground!

#4 – Watch the Pressure You Exert.

In addition to having sure footing on the ground and ensuring that you are not sliding all over the place, watch the force with which you move the shovel as this could PROPEL you away from what you thought was a solid position.

Hmmm… let’s see if I can explain this in another way… sometimes, the way we move can hurt us. Move TOO QUICKLY and we may injure our feet, legs, hand, arms, etc. The same could happen to the BACK while shoveling snow. This is where injuries like lower back strain, over-tensioning of muscles, pain radiating through other parts of your body, spasms, and herniated disks could occur.

snow boots

#5 – Posture, Technique, and Exercise.

This is a triple-pronged category of back protection while shoveling snow. You NEED the right POSTURE. Standing on firm ground is useful but not entirely sufficient to protect your back. Your posture while shoveling snow is VERY IMPORTANT! If you’re bent the wrong way, you could injure parts of your body and give way to slips and falls as well. TECHNIQUE is an area to focus on.

  • How are you MOVING the shovel?
  • How do you BEND OR MOVE YOUR ARMS while shoveling snow?

Learn and use the right technique for shoveling snow. You could also improve your posture and the ability to use the proper technique through EXERCISE. For those who already have back pain, there are ways to exercise and tactics to use that could help eliminate back pain [3].

In addition to the above, you need to warm up before going outside to shovel snow. Keep yourself warm and comfy too as this will help you focus on the task versus shivering and hurrying to get back inside the house. Dress for success; this includes a hat, gloves, and outerwear [4]. RUSHING the task could lead to injury too!! Back pain is not a joyful experience and we either never want to have it or we want to get rid of it and do so FAST! Back pain has been associated with numerous activities including the act of shoveling snow. Is shoveling snow something you do or plan to do? If yes, you’ll be glad to know that there are ways to protect your back while shoveling snow. Know the risks! Protect your back!! Keep safe while shoveling snow!!!

For your guide to eliminating your lower back pain, check out Low Back Pain Solved, here!

Low Back Pain Solved


[1] Shoveling Snow Health Hazards
[2] Shoveling Snow Injures Thousands Each Year
[3] Fix My Back Pain
[4] Tips for Snow Shoveling: How to Avoid Back Pain