shoveling snow safely without injuring your back

How To Shovel Snow Without Injuring Your Back

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Surprisingly, as a former back pain sufferer, I eagerly anticipate the winter season. Embracing the outdoors during chilly weather, I consider snow shoveling a fantastic recreational alternative to hitting the gym. What could be better than a hefty shovel of snow to elevate my pulse, engage my obliques, and work on my glutes? Plus, the allure of a cozy fireplace and a well-deserved glass of wine afterward serves as a great motivator.

But for many people, it can bring back memories of a lifting injury, or aggravate a current back problem.  Don’t worry though, because with attention to some details and changes in your approach, you can join me in enjoying winter again! And while the weather this year has been quite mild in the city, it can give you lots of time to get started to be ready for the snowfalls to come!

Here is an easy-to-follow guide that I’ve written that will help you learn how to shovel snow without injuring your back.  I call it the T.E.C. approach: Technique, Ergonomics, and Core.

T.E.C. – A Threefold Strategy for a Pain-Free Snow Shoveling Experience


T is for Technique: Avoiding Snow Shoveling Back Injuries

Learn the Technique: Lifting with Your Legs

Reciting “lift with your legs” is common, but execution often falls short. Ensure your torso remains over your legs, reducing strain on your back. Watch a video demonstrating proper snow shoveling technique, emphasizing knee bending and lifting smaller loads.

Keep the weight close to your body:

Lifting and carrying a shovel filled with snow can take its toll on your back as well as your shoulders, neck and hands.  When lifting and carrying, make sure one hand is close to the scoop (the part that holds all of the snow) so that the weight is closer to your body.  This will reduce the work needed by

Limit Twisting:

Twisting while lifting a heavy load increases the strain on your spine.  Instead of throwing it over your shoulder, push snow forward by placing your hips against the handle to reduce the effort. If twisting is necessary, lighten the load with smaller shovelfuls, and take more breaks.

Take Breaks:

It’s normal to want to clear the snow as soon as possible to get back inside where it is warm.  But don’t rush through heavy tasks – break down activities into manageable sessions with a 15-minute intervals to prevent fatigue-induced injuries.  Remember, the more demanding the activity, the more breaks you need.

E is for Ergonomics: The Right Equipment for a Safe Shoveling Experience

Choose the Right Tools:

Select tools wisely. While a larger shovel completes the job faster, it adds strain.  Instead, lighter and smaller shovels are more manageable and can make the task feel easier.  Some shovels even have ergonomic designs for a more (but not quite really) effortless snow-shoveling experience.  If you are interested in a better shovel, you can check out an expert review of the 8 best snow shovels you can buy.

C is for Core: Good Core Strength Prevents Injuries


Starting an activity without mental readiness often leads to injuries. Resist the urge to dive headfirst into strenuous activities. Instead, plan a few minutes for a proper warm-up to prepare your body for the task at hand. Warming up is not stretching; it’s about feeling comfortable with the movements first, and then raising your body temperature gradually. Start slowly, avoiding big efforts until your body is ready, and gauge your readiness by increased warmth, heart rate, and breathing.  Save stretching for post-activity to help your muscles to recover without becoming stiff.

Use the Right Muscles:

Squat to lift snow, focusing on using thigh and buttock muscles. Many at risk for back pain underuse their buttocks, leading to back muscle strain. Recognize the muscles at work and distribute the load appropriately.

Building Strength, Not Injury:

Repeating an activity before your body is ready hinders strength-building. Allow time for post-exercise recovery, especially when engaging in demanding tasks on consecutive days. Adjust intensity, take more breaks, or reduce loads to mitigate risks.

Strengthen Your Core:

Despite following technique and ergonomic advice, some may still get injured due to core muscle mismatches. Ensure your abdominals, buttocks, and thigh muscles are prepared for the task. Focus on targeted exercises on non-snow days to fortify your core and reduce injury risks.


As we make it through another snow season, make sure you prioritize your fitness program, incorporating TEC principles.   Even if you are starting now, try to maintain it throughout the year to face each season’s challenges with resilience.  If you need additional guidance, our team of exercise professionals can help you with an individualized program to build a strong core and teach proper snow-shoveling techniques.

Say goodbye to back pain and hello to a winter workout that keeps you fit and injury-free! Call us at 416-925-4687, email us at, or visit our online booking page to book an appointment.

This service pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about therapy, health and related sub­jects. It is not meant to replace advice and/or treatment from your health care professional.