Chiropractic Health & Wellness Blog

Snow Shoveling Is Leading Cause Of Back pain

December 20, 2010
Snow Shoveling Is Leading Cause Of Their Winter Back Pain

A majority of physicians say that back pain is a year-round phenomenon. However, nearly half (45 percent) of primary care physicians, who report seeing more back pain sufferers during winter than any other time of the year, say patients cite snow shoveling as the primary cause of their winter back woes.

One quarter (27 percent) of primary care physicians note that patients frequently point to lifting, bending/leaning or twisting - activities generally associated with snow shoveling - as the causes of their back pain or muscle spasm.

Shoveling snow need not result in back pain and sore muscles, according to Lyn Lake Chiropractic Minneapolis Chiropractors.

Many people will likely be out shoveling in the next few days, if the forecast for heavy snow today and Saturday is correct. Even people with snow blowers might need to shovel some areas if more than Quick read more or view full article a foot of snowfalls.

"The first thing is to get the right shovel," said Dr. Kevin Schreifels, a chiropractor with Lyn Lake Chiropractic Clinic. Most hardware stores and home improvement stores sell ergonomically correct snow shovels.

"The equipment that you use is just as important as your body," he said. The old metal shovels are stiff, heavy and uncomfortable.

He recommended that the shovel have a handle that can extend to different lengths, to accommodate people of different sizes. Most new shovels are made of lightweight plastic that curves to hold the snow.

For the actual shoveling, Lyn Lake Chiropractic recommends pacing. "Take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of water to hydrate."

Eating and smoking before shoveling is not wise. Caffeine or other stimulants can also endanger the heart, when combined with strenuous shoveling. Lyn Lake Chiropractic suggests waiting until after you shovel to drink any caffeinated beverage.

They recommend holding the shovel in both hands with some distance between the hands to get leverage. When shoveling, maintain a good posture, allowing for the natural curve of the spine. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

"Shovel close to the body, bend at the knees and lift with your legs," Schreifels said. He also recommended tightening the abdominal muscles to engage the body's strong core, which will keep the weight of the snow off the weaker back muscles.

"Dump the snow in front of you," he said. "Don't twist. Move your feet if you have to move the snow to the side. Scoop small amounts."

Keep up with the snow, he said. Don't wait until the snowfall has ended to start shoveling. "It's better to get out there as it comes," he said. Fresh snow is lighter.

Even people with snow blowers can be injured. "They push it too hard," he said. "They try to push it to go faster." They end up with acute low back pain.

After a big snowfall, he said, patients often come into their office with back and shoulder injuries.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “If you must lift the snow, lift it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once; do it piecemeal. Shovel and inch or two; then take another inch off. Rest and repeat if necessary.”

Lyn Lake Chiropractic wants you to be safe this winter and take your time shoveling since Minneapolis has been getting a great deal of snow so far this year. The last 17 inch snow fall Lyn Lake Chiropractic seen many lower back pain injuries from snow removal and would just like to remind you to take your time. If you have any chest pain, please stop immediately and call 911, better safe than sorry!

If you want to learn more healthy living tips, you can visit the Lyn Lake Chiropractic Website at

Comment: James W. - December 11th, 2010

Great information! My dad injured his lower back shoveling snow about 15 years ago. He tried pain pills for a month (marginal improvement) before going to see the Chiropractor. After just a few adjustments, his low back pain went away completely! He now uses Chiropractic on a regular basis to prevent future injuries! Read Less

Did you know we now have five Lyn Lake Chiropractic locations? If you're on the North side of Minneapolis, look us up! Or in the St Paul area, check us out!