Back Pain from Shoveling

Back Pain from Shoveling Anyone who works in the hospital emergency room in the winter understands the hazards of snow shoveling in the winter months. In every major winter storm that involves large deposits of snow in residential driveways, doctors will always expect a huge spike in admissions of back pain cases. Imagine that each major snowfall literals leaves tons of snow in driveways that must be cleared in order for the cars to get in and out. In an ideal world, those individuals who aren't in the best of shape would hire a snow plow or get someone else to the work for them. But economics often play a factor, and most people elect to do the work themselves, regardless of whatever shape they are in. Some people are up to these types of jobs and some aren't. Snow shoveling presents a number of problems for many people who are simply not conditioned enough or educated enough to do these types of jobs properly. While snow shoveling, many of us simply lift too much snow at a time or employ improper lifting techniques to get the whole driveway cleared.

Back pain from shoveling may occur when our feet slip, when we don't pace ourselves, when we used outdated snow shovels, and when we don't lift the snow properly.



Snow shoveling is associated with an alarming number of medical emergencies. A 2011 study reported an average of 11,500 emergency room visits each year that were directly a result of snow shoveling-related injuries. Heart attacks accounted for many of these injuries, while others were related to lacerations from the power snow blowers and the lifting movements with snow shovels. Emergency rooms always brace for an influx of admissions when the snow starts falling in huge chunks.

There are several factors accounting for these high injury rates. One must consider that when the snow is falling, it is usually pretty cold outside. That means that our muscles will be cold as well for very strenuous activity, unless you have taken to time to warm up your body beforehand. One must also consider that the majority of us are not conditioned to this much physical exertion, especially in the winter. When was the last time you have pushed your body this much? It was probably several months or more. Perhaps the biggest factor related to injuries is improper lifting techniques. The way that we use our arms and legs, and the way that we orient our bodies as we lift and transfer the snow may make the difference of whether or not we end up as another emergency room statistic.

Here's some helpful advice on how you may clear your snowy driveway without ending up in the ER during the next snowy storm.
  • Warm Up Thoroughly: Those of you who play sports or who work out at the gym are accustomed to warming up and stretching before you rev yourself into action. So why don't you do that before a snow shoveling workout as well? Muscles that are warm and flexible will be less likely to become strained from strenuous physical activity.
  • Pick the Right Snow Shovel: In case you haven't noticed, there are a lot more offerings out there for shoveling snow other than just the bucket and long stick. Today, many shovels are made up of a curved handle or an adjustable handle, so that you barely have to bend your back as you bring the snow up from the ground. In an ideal ergonomic environment, all types of lifting will be done with a straight back, with the arms and legs doing all the work. This new tool will make it much easier to use proper body mechanics as you clear out the snow. Also many of the blades are now made of a lightweight plastic, as opposed to metal ones, which makes each load that you have to manage - that much lighter.
  • Pace Yourself: We know that it's cold outside, and you may be in a rush to get to work or back in the house where it isn't so freezing. But this is one physical activity where you are going to really have to take your time. If you feel vulnerable to injury, then just try to only shovel the part that is necessary to get your car out of the driveway or to clear a pathway to walk to the house. Try to shovel smaller scoops if the larger ones feel like they are putting extra stress on your back.
  • Use good ergonomic lifting techniques: You entire body should be squarely facing the payload during the entire lifting process. You should use your feet, shoulders, and hips to turn your entire body to transfer the snow to the lawn, rather than just twisting your spine to shove the snow to the side.