Agape Physical Therapy

5 Tips on How to Avoid Injury When Shoveling

Snow is inevitable when living in the Northeast and most people need to shovel snow at some point each winter. Shoveling can lead to injury if done incorrectly so here are some tips to avoid injury while shoveling.

  1. Push the snow in front of you: it is best to keep the shovel in front of you rather than scooping a load of snow onto the shovel and then twisting to throw it into the pile. By keeping the shovel close to your body, you will place less strain on your back. 

  2. Lift with your legs: once you have pushed the snow to the edge of the pile, bend your hips and knees and lift with your legs. Utilize the bigger muscles (glutes, quads and hamstrings) in your legs rather than the smaller muscles in your back. Move your feet so that the shovel stays close to your body when you place the snow on the pile.  Do not bend your back to scoop the snow or twist to throw it on the pile as this is the type of movement that may cause back pain.

  3. Squeeze your abdominals:  While lifting with your legs, keep your back straight by squeezing your abdominals to protect your spine from the load. By bending the knees and hips rather than bending at your back you will reduce the force through your spine and decrease the risk of injury. 

  4. Never hold your breath: It is important never to hold your breath while shoveling. If the snow is heavy, it is better to do a little bit at a time rather than trying to remove all of the snow at once. More frequent shoveling may be a good idea so that there is not a large quantity of snow to remove all at once.

  5. Stop if you become short of breath or experience pain: Shoveling is hard work for the whole body so make sure to rest often if you become short of breath. Also, drink plenty of water before you begin as it is easy to become dehydrated while shoveling. If at any time you experience pain, stop immediately.

Most injuries that occur from shoveling involve back muscles or the discs in your spine. Physical therapists are experts in treating musculoskeletal injuries, so if you are experiencing pain after shoveling contact your local PT today!

Michelle Osgood
Student Physical Therapist, Nazareth College