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Shoveling Snow Safely

Safe Techniques Provided By Margaret Mary’s Physical Therapy Department

Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders. Back injuries due to snow shoveling are more likely to happen to people who may not know they are out of shape. Following these tips can help you to avoid injuries:

  • Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Be sure to bend at your knees and lift with your legs instead of your back.
  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the lower back from twisting. This will help prevent ‘next-day back fatigue.’
  • Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so you are lifting with your legs.
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.
  • Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling. Stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips. Bend backwards slightly for several seconds.
  • If you or anyone you know is experiencing back pain, consult a licensed physical therapist.

Proper Snow Shoveling Technique



Keep feet wide apart. Put weight on front foot close to shovel and use leg to push shovel straight ahead.







Shift weight to rear foot and keep shovel-load close to body. Lift with arms and legs, not back.







Turn feet in the direction of throw and pivot entire body rather than twisting at the waist.




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