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Avoid Back Pain when Shovelling Snow

Updated on December 3, 2010

Shovelling the Snow without the Pain

At this time of year, chiropractors experience a seasonal influx of patients with back and neck strain caused by over-zealous snow shovelling.

We all want to get out and about again. Tired of being stuck indoors with the kiddies climbing the walls we go into the garage and get the shovels out.

However, due to the onset of winter many of us may not be in top shape or as active as we might have been during the summer. As a result, we see an increase in lifting and twisting, spinal injury and pain. Looking after your back properly before, during and after physical activities will help sustain your health and fitness and will also ensure that you can get through the colder months successfully without the pain.


As with any sport we know that preparation is essential for good results. The same is true for spinal care when you take on extra physical activity:

· Keep your back in mind. Remember your spine is made up of vertebrae (the bones) with the soft gelatinous disc in between. If you think of the bones as bricks and the disc as an inner tube you can visualise the effect lifting and twisting has on your structure.

When you lift the bricks are squashing the inner tube. If you then twist your trunk without moving your feet the inner tube which is already compressed then squeezes and has the potential to strain. If this is done repetitiously such as when shovelling there is the possibility for the disc to become inflamed and possibly even rupture.

· Protecting your back. Make sure you are warm enough. Cold muscles and ligaments have a tendency to cause more problems than when they receive enough blood flow through them.

· Only lift as much as you can do comfortably. Small trips of manageable loads are better than one big one you can hardly carry.

· When lifting, make sure you use your legs to lift, not your arms or your back.

· When twisting, don’t twist from the trunk. Instead move you’re your feet and keep your back in the same plane. Continuous twisting of the back while under strain may increase the changes of disc involvement in your back pain.

· Warm up before digging with gentle stretching or with lighter tasks. Try and relax while you dig and avoid pressurised over-exertion which increases tension and back strain. Take small spadefuls or use a small spade. Take regular breaks and continue to do stretching exercises. Also stretch to cool the muscles down afterwards, to minimise strain.

· Use a wheelbarrow to move heavy loads of snow. Remember to lift from a squatting position using your legs/knees, not by bending over. Decanting material into lighter loads is a sensible back-protection technique.

· Using Grit – Bags of grit can be heavy. Decant theseheavy items in smaller bags or containers to reduce your carrying load.

· Get regular checks with a Registered Chiropractor and seek advice from your chiropractor on suitable stretching and warm-up exercises.


Chiropractic is a primary health-care profession that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of conditions that are due to problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body, particularly those of the spine. Chiropractors focus on the relationship between the structure and function of the human body, primarily coordinated by the nervous system. Treatment consists of a wide range of techniques designed to improve the function of the nervous system, relieving pain and muscle spasm and improving overall health.


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      Janelle 7 years ago

      As a physical therapist I loved this article. Great concepts to keep all safe from common mistakes. I would also recommend that if you have had previous back issues, apply ice (or snow!) to your lower back after you're done shoveling. Better yet, get a snowblower.

      For more information about lower back pain treatment, visit: