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Back Problems Associated with Shoveling Snow

Back Problems Associated with Shoveling Snow

Back Problems Associated with Shoveling Snow

Every year, thousands of people injure themselves while shoveling snow out of their driveways, and a large portion of those injuries are sustained on the back. The constant bending over, raising and lowering of the spine, and the effects of cold weather on your muscles all contribute to winter back injuries. Additionally, lack of proper snow shoveling technique, sudden activity after a routinely sedentary lifestyle, and use of less-than-optimal shovels all make back problems worse.

The most common types of winter back problems

While shoveling snow can lead to many kinds of back problems, these four are the most common:

1.   Lower back pain and strain

How it happens: Poor posture during shoveling, where the back is rounded when going down for the next load of snow, is a key cause of lower back pain. This posture minimizes the use of your stronger "spinal erector" muscles and puts the pressure on weaker "stabilizer" muscles, and over-stretches your spine's supporting ligaments.

How to prevent it: Instead of lifting snow, use the shovel to push it to the side whenever possible. But if you have to lift a shovel full of snow, squatting with and lifting from your knees will decrease the stress on your back. Keep the shovel near your body and move to the edge of the driveway instead of hurling the snow.

2.   Herniated discs

How it happens: A herniated, or "slipped," disc occurs whenever a soft, inter-vertebral disc moves out of position and presses or pinches up against a nerve. The major cause of herniating a disc while shoveling snow is rotating or twisting the back instead of making straight up and down motions. And the heavier the snow load, the greater the chances of an injury.

How to prevent it: Always face your hips and shoulders towards the object you intend to lift. Avoid twisting your back to move the snow to its new location: instead, pivot your whole body to face the new direction. For a minor investment, you can buy an ergonomically designed shovel that uses a bent handle to de-stress your back. This type of shovel also prevents your needing to bend as far. Look for an adjustable handle and lightweight material as well.

3.   Muscular back pain

How it happens: Although muscular back pain overlaps with lower back pain and can come in tandem with disc herniation, it can apply to many back muscles. Cold outdoor temperatures can slow blood circulation and make muscles more likely to cramp, over-tire, or experience spasms.

How to prevent it: Warm up with exercises and stretches before going outdoors to shovel snow. Also, warm up in a well-heated home and be sure to eat a hot breakfast. And again: too much bending and twisting will make the condition more severe.

4.   Fractures, bruising, and torn tendons/ligaments

How it happens: You can also injure your back by slipping and falling on concrete (or other hard surfaces) while shoveling snow. This can lead to a broken back, where vertebrae are actually fractured. It can also dislocate vertebrae and tear at tendons and ligaments. Additionally, bones can actually be "bruised" upon impact, causing much pain and a long-term "bad back." Injury of the coccyx, or "tail bone," is especially common during a fall since it is at the end of the vertebral column. Such an injury is serious, and you should not delay to get immediate medical attention should it occur.

How to prevent it: Make sure to wear shoes or boots with good treads to minimize injuries from slipping. Spreading a traction-enhancing substance like sand, rock salt, or kitty litter on your sidewalk or driveway will also reduce the likelihood of slipping on the ice while you shovel.

No-one really enjoys shoveling snow. But if you follow our safety tips above, at least you’ll be shoveling smart.

6 Surprising Ways Snow-Shoveling Can Damage Your Property

6 Surprising Ways Snow-Shoveling Can Damage Your Property

6 Surprising Ways Snow-Shoveling Can Damage Your Property

Is snow accumulating on your property? If so, it’s time to get out there and start shoveling.

Allowing snow to pile up on or around your home can cause an array of problems. These might include a deck warping and splintering due to melting snow, potential roof damage due to water leaking under shingles or, worse, a collapsed roof. And, of course, there are slip-and-fall safety concerns associated with ice buildup under accumulating snow drifts.

Breaking out the snow shovel may seem like the natural solution to these types of problems. However, shoveling can cause damage to your property. Here are six things to consider before you get too far into the next snow-shoveling session.

Six areas of your property that can be damaged by snow-shoveling

 The Deck

Winter can wreak havoc on a deck and, as a homeowner, you may be concerned with issues such as popped nails, graying due to lack of proper sealant, or rotting boards. However, getting out the shovel may not be the best solution for preventing these.

Shoveling snow may actually damage your deck by leaving gouges or scrapes that, come spring, end up costing money to repair. Wood is also particularly vulnerable to damage from shoveling when it’s been softened by melting snow.

The Driveway

Driveways are the most common priority for shoveling when the snow begins to fall. But shoveling your driveway with any kind of force and a metal shovel (the type most commonly used) can scratch the surface of an asphalt or concrete driveway. With each additional snowfall and shoveling session, your driveway surface can potentially become more and more damaged, both in integrity and appearance.

The Roof

According to the City of Boston, one cubic foot of dry snow weighs about seven pounds while wet snow can weigh anywhere between 12 and 18 pounds. The majority of roofs are made to withstand this added weight, however, the risk of structural damage still remains, particularly with large, flat roofs.

While it may seem like a good idea to avoid the massive headache a collapsed roof could cause, getting up there and shoveling could cause serious damage to shingles or other roofing materials. A better alternative is to “shave” the snow down to a couple of inches and then use a snow rake to remove snow and ice from the eaves and as far up the roof as you can reach with the rake.


Snow accumulation on the lawn is inevitable during the snow season. But, letting it pile up can stress the grass hidden beneath and could result in a fungal infection. Keeping your landscape free from excessive snow piles will give it a better chance of flourishing once spring returns.

However as with shoveling the driveway, shoveling snow around your property can become a “brute force” activity. It’s easy to accidentally remove chunks of sod or damage plants while you’re focused on the task of keeping snow drifts under control.


When it comes to safe and easy access to your home during the winter months, walkways must remain clear of snow and ice. However, like driveways, walkways can become cracked, scraped or gouged as a result of shoveling—even those made of brick, pavers or decorative stamped concrete.

Irrigation and Wiring

Lastly, many homeowners make their spring and summer watering easier by using drip irrigation, which places drip pipes on or below the surface of the soil. Likewise, wiring for lighting around decks, patios, and yards is buried but over time can move closer to the ground surface. When your property is blanketed in snow it’s often difficult to remember exactly where everything is.

It doesn’t take much force with the blade of a snow shovel to sever irrigation lines or wiring. In a few short seconds, an entirely new spring project can be created by a misplaced shovel blade or by accidentally shoveling too deeply.

Alternatives to Shoveling

There are alternatives to shoveling snow, thus avoiding potential damage to your home and property. Some of these include:

Whether it’s shoveling or one of the alternative approaches to snow and ice removal, it’s important to choose the method that’s right for you. Your home, property, and wallet will thank you.