How to Shovel Snow Without Hurting Your Back  

Published: January 29, 2019

Steven McAnany, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Sports Medicine, HSS Stamford Outpatient Center, HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health Collaborative


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Dr. Steven McAnanay, sports medicine surgeon at HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health, offers three helpful tips for successful snow shoveling to avoid back injuries:

I believe that preparing our bodies for the winter is just as significant as preparing our driveways and sidewalks with sand and salt for winter’s ice, sleet and snow.

Exercises, such as planks, strengthen the core and can be completed at home daily without stepping foot in the gym. Superman exercises to strengthen back muscles and work your glutes and hamstrings are also effective. I steer clear from exercises such as sit-ups and deadlifts, as they cause unnecessary added stress on the lower back.

Shovel snow without hurting your backHaving a strong core and strong back muscles provides a powerful external brace for the back. The stronger the core and back muscles, the more support for the back which lowers the risk for potential lower back pain from shoveling snow.

Prepare yourself with the proper equipment including snow boots to prevent falling on ice and an appropriate-sized shovel with the handle above the waist to avoid excessive bending.

Beware: How to Properly Shovel Snow 
When it comes to shoveling, I like to remember my favorite sandwich, a BLT. Not just because I would rather be inside eating a sandwich than shoveling, but to remind myself to maintain proper spine health.

BLT stands for bending, lifting and twisting.

Beware of bending while shoveling and if you have to bend, do so at the knees instead of the lower back.

Avoid lifting ice, sleet and snow with a shovel and instead use the shovel to push with help from your leg muscles. If you can, shovel frequently while it’s snowing as the snow is lighter, fluffier and easier to push.

Twisting while shoveling should be avoided at all costs. I recommend shoveling with your body facing forward with your knees slightly bent.

Take Care: Avoiding Common Snow Shoveling Injuries 
As I always tell my patients, listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel winded and need to take a break, take a break. There are no heroes in snow shoveling.

If you experience back pain, muscle spasms, shooting pain, numbness or tingling into your legs immediately discontinue shoveling and contact your healthcare provider.




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