Physical Therapy

Call (928) 440-3106

Performance Assessment

3 Minute Injury Report- Snow Shoveling and Back Pain

by | Mar 15, 2021 | 3 Minute Injury Report, News

For the blog post today we are going to talk about something near and dear to us, and that is shoveling snow. All of us have to do it up here in the high country, so we might as well do it safely to prevent injury. We are going to talk about how to correctly shovel snow so that we are ready for the next storm.  All of us have to shovel, especially when your family members have performed the famous disappearing act.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you start shoveling. First, think of a square.   When you start to shovel , keep your upper body in alignment with your lower body. You should try to think about keeping your shoulders in a square with your hips. When your shoulders are square with your hips, your trunk doesn’t rotate. Many back strains occur when the trunk rotates, especially when carrying a heavy load.

Next, offset your legs with one in front and one behind as if you were doing a short lunge. Place your hands with one on the back of the handle of the shovel and one in the front, and bend your knees and scoop the snow in a squatting motion. When you lift the shovel load, pivot at your hips, keeping your hips and shoulders in line, and dump the snow off to the side. When you are lifting and rotating you shouldn’t have any strain in the low back or neck, but you should feel your hips and legs working. All your movement and power should be done through your hips, not through your back. You also need to keep your back super straight, not rounding it, that way you are using your butt muscles and hamstrings more. Most likely you will have muscle soreness in your hips and hamstrings and legs, but that is much easier to deal with than a strained back.

If you finish shoveling and you still have some back pain or irritation, there are a couple of exercises you can do.  The first exercise you can do to loosen up your back begins with you lying on the ground on a flat surface with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. While lying flat on the ground, grab your knees and pull them to your chest then put your feet back down to the floor and repeat.  Do this in a nice gentle back and forth motion, for about 30 repetitions.  The second exercise, in the same position as the first exercise, is to simply gently rock your knees left to right as far as you can go on either side. Both these exercises will help you get mobility back into your back.

If you have tried these exercises and they have helped, we would love to hear about it. Drop us a comment below letting us know how these exercises have helped you. If you tried these exercises and they did not help with your back pain, give us a call we would love to get you on the schedule. We can get you back out there so you can shovel more or go skiing, snowboarding and enjoy the winter in Flagstaff.  We look forward to hearing from you soon!


-Dr. Jordan Williams