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How to Protect Your Back While Shoveling Snow [Video + 3 Key Secrets]

Experience Meets Wisdom

shoveling snowIt’s snow season.  We love the fun part … and then there’s shoveling the driveway and the sidewalks!  Here are three key secrets to making sure your body stays safe, you avoid injuries and you protect your back while shoveling snow.

Growing up south of Buffalo, New York, I’ve spent many hours outside in the winter shoveling snow, mainly at my parent’s insistence.  Keeping our driveway and sidewalks clear was no small job.  Therefore, these secrets about shoveling snow come from personal experience, and also these days from a place of wisdom, as a chiropractor.  I offer you three secrets to shoveling snow without hurting yourself, especially about how you can protect your back.

Secret One: Choose the Right Equipment

When you’re shoveling your driveway or anywhere else, you want to make sure you’re using the right type of equipment.  I’m a big fan of contoured shovels.  The contour allows you to get a little closer to the actual amount of the show you lift, which in turn takes more stress off your lower back.  There’s nothing wrong with the older straight shovels but the contoured ones are just better for you and prevent more injury.  Since you can get closer to the load you’re lifting there’s much less stress in the lower back and you’re definitely helping to protect your back.

Secret Two: To Protect Your Back, Keep Close to the Shovel

Once you have the right equipment, I want to reinforce that you make sure that use it right to keep you safe.  The goal is to keep the bottom of the shovel where you have the weight of the snow close to you. The further away you are from the shovel, the greater the likelihood that you are that you’re going to have a lower back problem.  The secret is to keep the shovel close as you’re heaping the snow  The movement is: keep close, lift up and then tip it out.

It’s not about pushing the shovel way out in front of you, or trying to snow plow it all the way ahead of you with your arms pushed way out front and your back leaning forward.  You want to keep your arms tight and close to you.  Again, another reason why I like the contoured shovel because you’re right there on top of the load which you can lift and then dump.

Secret Three: More Repetitions

As a kid, I remember trying to get as much snow as I could on the shovel so I can get back inside really quickly and not have to be outside in the cold.  Understandable, but not good practice!  When you load up the shovel with a ton of snow and try to lift it up, that’s when you’re going to get hurt. To avoid injury and protect your back, you want to have less snow in the shovel and you want to have more repetitions.  Lots of little scoops are wisest.


  1. Choose a contoured shovel that has a little angle that allows you to get a little closer to the shovel scoop so you won’t have as much space between you and the shovel.
  2. Keep your body closer to the shovel scoop so you avoid pushing out the shovel way out ahead of you because the more you do that the more likely you are to have an injury. Remember the goal is to protect your back!
  3. Don’t load up the shuttle with a ton of snow whether you’re working in six inches of snow or in a couple feet. Small amounts and lots of repetitions.

Last Secret

The last secret is a special bonus.  The best way to make sure you don’t hurt yourself is to have someone else do it for you!  Just like my parents did when we were kids.

That’s the last of my secret tips for safe snow shoveling from a kid from the northeast.

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And if you did hurt your back shoveling snow, please call or contact our practice today!

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