Stop Back Pain With Proper Snow Shoveling Technique

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Let the great dig out BEGIN!  With winter storm Orlena dropping upwards of 20 inches of heavy snow in our area, back pain can quickly take hold as we start to dig out of this mess.

Just remember, it may look bad outside, but I feel that if you follow some general rules when you’re out there and cleaning up, then you should be able to stop back pain before it starts.


When I treat patients for Physical Therapy, I do a lot of education regarding posture, especially when it pertains to daily activities.  Living and growing up in New Jersey, you get used to snow and having to shovel.  You also get used to the pain that accompanies having to spend a couple of hours outside shoveling snow in the winter months.  But when you go out to shovel your driveway, or your car out of a side street parking spot, be sure to keep in mind these quick tips:

1) Use your legs.  In my opinion, this is, by far, the most overlooked quick tip.  Instead of bending your back over to scoop up snow, use more of your legs to squat, keeping your back as straight as possible, instead of keeping your legs straight and bending your back over


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Take note of the usage of the legs & squatting as opposed to just bending of the back.

2) Push the snow as much as possible, and lessen the amount of lifting.  This will help you to use more leg strength and put less strain on your back.  If you don’t have to lift the snow, don’t!  Your back and legs will thank you for it.

3) Take frequent water and rest breaks.  My general rule is to take a small break for rest and a sip of water every 15-20 minutes that you are outside shoveling.  Snow shoveling is just like any other strenuous activity, only it’s one that you don’t perform frequently.  Your body may tire faster because you’re just not used to doing the shoveling motions on a regular basis.  And when you get tired, you know what happens:  form goes right out the window and your chances for injury increase exponentially as you rush just to “get it done.”   Remember, you want to get it done, but you don’t want to get injured in the process!

4) Use warm up and cool down stretches.  As stated in #3, snow shoveling is quite an athletic activity.  So you should treat it as such and give yourself the best possibility to avoid injury.

5) Wear proper clothing that will keep you warm and toasty.  Warm muscles will stay loose and significantly reduce the possibility for strains or sprains.


So that’s it, my best snow shoveling tips!  As you can see, many of these tips are quick tips that may seem simple in practice.  However, in the real world, we all know that it’s very easy to forget the simple things.  That’s how problems begin.  As a back specialist, I see these injuries all the time.  But if you keep these tips in mind, hopefully you’ll be able to stop back pain problems



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Dr. James Pumarada is a licensed Physical Therapist and co-owner of Complete Physical Rehabilitation.   With over 19+ years of treatment experience, he is a Sports Therapy Certified physical therapist, focusing on treating and training runners of all levels, and is one of the most sought after vestibular therapy specialists in Elizabeth and Jersey City where, along with his wife, Dr. Asha, they specialize in the treatment of all dizziness, vertigo, and imbalance issues.


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