Tips to Help You Prevent Back Pain When Shoveling Snow

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Lots of snow to be shoveled on driveway.
Lots of snow to be shoveled on driveway.

By Lori Bosworth

Have you heard the weather forecast for Toronto? We are about to get at least 10 cm of snow, our first snowfall of the season. While snow on the ground definitely puts me in a festive mood, my back isn’t crazy about all of the snow shoveling. And I’m not alone there. Four out of five Canadians will experience back or neck pain between the ages of 30-50, with a large percentage of these injuries taking place in winter. (Our giveaway of an ObusForme has closed…congratulations to Chris M.!)

You might think that snow shoveling is a minor household task to deal with in winter. But when you consider that shoveling 15 cm of snow on a typical double driveway means you could be shoveling between 1,100 and 1,500 pounds of snow depending on how wet the snow is, this is a major workout for the body.

Lots of snow to be shoveled on driveway.
Lots of snow to be shoveled on driveway.

Dr. Ron Nusbaum, Founder and Director of Back Clinics of Canada, says, “Most people don’t think about stretching before going out to shovel, yet this is the No. 1 step to avoid muscle pulls and strains, even for those who work out regularly.” Dr. Nusbaum offers these additional tips to prevent back pain when shoveling snow:

Warm Up Exercises

Perform 10 minutes of shoulder rolls, arm circles, back and neck stretches, and overhead arm extensions using a light shovel as a “bar bell” as a warm up exercise before shoveling.

User Proper Gear

Shovels with a fibre handle are lighter to use than shovels with a metal or wood grip. Choose a shovel with a steel rather than plastic edge since it’s less likely to break and cause accidents. 

Dress Warmly

Dress warmly since cold muscles are more susceptible to injury. Dressing in layers provides ventilation and you can remove layers when you are feeling warm. Wear boots with good treads to avoid slipping.

Perfect Your Shoveling Skills

Keep your knees bent and back straight, holding the shovel handle close to your body no higher than your hips. Push the snow with your shovel rather than lift it. If you must lift, scoop small amounts of snow using your legs, not back. Don’t throw the snow – walk it to the snow pile instead.

Shovel Early

To prevent back pain when shoveling snow, shovel newly-fallen snow since it is lighter and easier to shovel. Don’t wait for snow to pile up before shoveling as the heavier snow can result in back pain.

Take Breaks

Rest every 15 minutes to avoid muscle stiffness. During this interval, straighten up, walk around, stretch and drink water to keep your body from overheating.


If you experience back pain while shoveling, Dr. Nusbaum recommends that you stop immediately, lie down and place a pillow under your knees to reduce pressure on your back. Ice the injury to reduce inflammation, applying 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. After icing, move around to avoid losing muscle strength and causing more damage.

Dr. Nusbaum says that most of his clinic’s patients are people who have suffered from damaged discs for months or even years, due to shoveling or other activities, and come to him after they have unsuccessfully tried everything else.

Dr. Nusbaum said. “Today, a combination of natural treatments has been found to provide unprecedented results for back pain sufferers,” he explained, adding that his clinic has been able to successfully help the majority of patients who have damaged discs.

For more tips to prevent back pain when shoveling snow, go to Back Clinics of Canada.

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ObusForme Deep Kneading Shiatsu Cushion with Heat

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71 COMMENTS

  1. Just bought a house in spring so this will be my first time shovelling! Used to be in a a condo before and we live pretty North! Suffer from back problems so this will be challenging!

  2. No, thankfully my husband does the shoveling. I haven’t been able to shovel in years because of my back. I actually kind of miss it.

  3. We haven’t had much snow so far but there was lots of snow this morning, but fortunately my husband shovelled it for me. But it’s only a matter of time now.

  4. My husband attempts to take care of the bulk of the shoveling but he’s had neck/shoulder injuries and can’t overdo it. I shovel and don’t mind the exercise, I just mind the back ache. Owning this lovely massage cushion, must be like living with a masseuse…I like that idea 🙂

  5. My husband takes care of most of the shoveling and snowblowing but I clear our walkways if they need done during the day when he’s at work.

  6. My husband likes to shovel the snow and has not bought a snowblower. I have an old Obus forme that I have used for many years. This one will be great for hubbie.

  7. I don’t have to shovel snow too often, thanks to my husband and eldest son. But I do suffer from back problems so I’d love to try this out!

  8. Shovelling is one of my winter traditions that continues. Love getting at it just as it darkens when all the lights are coming on. It’s a special treat if it’s still snowing lightly.

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