Let It Snow, Let It Snow...Avoiding Shoulder & Back Pain While You Shovel

Let It Snow, Let It Snow...Avoiding Shoulder & Back Pain While You Shovel

The holiday season is a busy time for us all- preparing dinner, shopping for gifts, and welcoming family from all over the country. Although we are all busy, the snow tends to show no mercy. We see a lot of shoulder pain and back pain from shoveling during the winter. This is because people are shoveling quickly and with poor posture/mechanics. The results are rotator cuff tears, shoulder sprains, shoulder strains, low back pain, disc herniations- all not good to say the least…

So how can we shovel with better body mechanics to avoid these shoulder and back injuries? Below are my tips to the shoveling trade:

  1. Avoid bending from the spine. Hinge at the hips and squat, bending from the knees.
  2. Place the hand furthest away from your body towards the base of the shovel, since picking up weight with a shorter lever arm will decrease stress to the back and shoulder.
  3. Do not fling the snow behind you, as this is the primary way that patients develop a rotator cuff tear. Instead, squat up to lift the snow, turn your body completely, and turn your forearms over to drop the snow. Flinging the snow behind you is also a common way patients develop low back pain due to the rotational torque placed on the spine.


These techniques may take you a few extra minutes, but will spare you the trouble of dealing with shoulder and back pain this winter.

If you have any questions, or think you may have sustained as injury to your back or shoulder while shoveling, please contact Sarrica Physical Therapy & Wellness at (347) 560-6920

Paul Nasri, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Sarrica Physical Therapy & Wellness
Staff Physical Therapist