How to Shovel Snow Without Back Pain: A Guide to Ergonomic Snow Removal

In the Garden Sue Jan 16, 2024
25 People Read
back pain phyiscal therapist

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. As an Amazon associate I may earn on qualifying purchases 

Winter wonderlands and snowy landscapes bring joy to many, but the daunting task of shoveling snow can often lead to back pain and discomfort. As a Physical Therapist, I can teach you the right techniques of lifting and show you some tools that can transform snow removal into a manageable and pain-free activity.

In this guide, we'll explore the importance of basic ergonomics, whether shoveling or pushing snow is better, the best exercises for snow shoveling, and whether ergonomic snow shovels are worth the investment.

Basic Ergonomics: Shoveling with Good Posture

Maintaining good posture while shoveling snow is crucial for preventing back pain and injuries. Here are some tips for proper ergonomics:

1. Bend your knees, not your back:

Keep your back straight tightening your core and bend your knees when lifting snow. This engages the powerful muscles in your legs instead of straining your lower back. 

body mechanics

2. Grip the shovel properly:

Use a grip that is shoulder-width apart to maintain balance and reduce strain on your back and arms. Use gloves that fit properly and have some gripping ability to decrease the effort it takes your hands to grip properly.

3. Face the direction you are throwing snow:

Avoid twisting your body when throwing snow. Instead, pivot your whole body to face the direction you want to toss the snow.

4. Take regular breaks :

Shoveling can be a strenuous activity. Take breaks every 15-20 minutes to rest and stretch your muscles.

Shoveling vs. Pushing: Which is Better?

What is the difference between a snow pusher and a snow shovel?

1. A pusher has a long narrow blade meant to push the snow, while a snow shovel looks more like a shovel meant to pick up then dump the snow out.

2. A snow pusher is used for long driveways, pushing the snow to the side of the driveway. Pushers are meant for frequent snow falls of not great depth

3. Snow Shovels are ideal around steps, sidewalks and around cars.

4. Snow shovels require your to lift the snow so this requires more strength and body mechanics to not hurt your back.

Here is an example of a Snow Pusher

snow pusher

Are Ergonomic Snow Shovels Worth It?

Ergonomic snow shovels are designed with user comfort and efficiency in mind. These shovels typically feature curved handles and adjustable heights, allowing you to maintain better posture while shoveling. While they may come with a higher price tag, many users find the investment worthwhile for the added comfort and reduced strain on their bodies.

Let's compare prices:

Snow Shovel with bent ergonomic handle

bent handle

This Ergonomic snow shovel  was around $30 at time of publication

Basic Straight handled snow shovel

basic snow shovel

This basic straight handle snow shovel was $27 at publication

How to Shovel Snow Efficiently

Efficiency is key when tackling a snow-covered driveway or sidewalk. Follow these tips to shovel snow more efficiently:

1. Choose the right shovel:

Select a shovel that suits the type of snow in your area and your physical capabilities. Ergonomic shovels, as mentioned earlier, can enhance efficiency.

snow shovelsnow shovel ergonomic

Compare these pictures, the standard snow shovel vs the ergonomic one:

The ergonomic one(second picture) keeps your back staighter even before you lift the snow. The standard snow shovel (the first picture) forces me to bend over so the blade contacts the ground (and I am only 5' 5").

Remember to now bend your knees, keeping your back straight to lift the snow. The standard shovel would force you to do a deep knee bend to properly keep your back straight to lift. The clear winner here is the bent handle snow shovel.

2. Clear snow frequently:

Don't wait for the snow to accumulate. Shovel in smaller, more manageable increments to prevent overexertion.

3. Use your body weight:

Instead of relying solely on your arms, use your body weight to push the snow. This reduces strain on your back and arms.

4. Invest in snow-melting products:

Pre-treat surfaces with ice melt or salt to make shoveling more manageable. This can help prevent the formation of ice, making the snow easier to shovel. Buy eco-friendly and pet friendly products..

5. Maybe invest in snow blower:

* Snow blowers are better for driveways that you can do long sweeps without obstacles.

* Even with a snow blower, you will still have to shovel around steps and cars.

* Snow blowers are much easier on your back, but cost is higher and there is some maintenance involved

with the gas ones. The cordless battery operated ones are very low maintenance.

Here is one well rated Snowblower:

EGO Snowblower (cordless)

Best Exercises to prevent pain with Snow Shoveling

Preparing your body with specific exercises can help prevent injuries and make snow shoveling more manageable. Incorporate these exercises into your routine:

1. Core exercises:

Strengthening your core muscles can provide better support for your back. Include exercises like planks and side planks in your workout routine.

2. Leg exercises:

Squats and lunges help build the leg muscles, providing stability and power when lifting and throwing snow.

3. Back stretches:

Always warm up before your stretch. Stretching your back before and after shoveling can improve flexibility and reduce the risk of muscle strain. Incorporate exercises like cat-cow stretches and child's pose.

In conclusion, shoveling snow doesn't have to be a painful and arduous task. By incorporating proper ergonomics, choosing the right tools, and preparing your body with targeted exercises, you can enjoy a snow-covered landscape without the worry of back pain or injuries. Whether you opt for traditional shoveling or invest in ergonomic tools, the key is to prioritize your well-being and approach snow removal with efficiency and care.

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Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. As an Amazon associate I may earn on qualifying purchases