Proper Shoveling Techniques for this Winter

| Hillary Rotunda

After this last snowstorm, having to get outside and shovel the driveway may be the last thing you want to do. Your number one goal is probably to get it done as soon as possible so you can get back into the house and warm-up. However, having this mentality is what makes this chore so injury prone. If your back hurts for days after shoveling, here are some pro tips to make shoveling a painless chore.


  • Preparing to shovel the driveway or sidewalk is just like a warmup before a workout. Getting the blood flowing by stretching your hips, legs, back, abdomen, and shoulders will loosen the body up. A short walk or a few squats can help the body get ready for the shoveling motion.
  • Choose a shovel that is ergonomically correct. Using a sturdy, lightweight shovel with a curved handle will help limit incorrect bending and force you to bend at your knees instead of your back. Pick a shovel that is correct for your height. Find one that has an adjustable handle so all family members can use it.
  • Dress appropriately. Use pants and a coat that will allow you to bend and move properly! Wear boots that have a grip on the bottom to avoid slipping.


  • Avoid twisting. Always face the direction you are working. Often people twist to toss the snow off the driveway by throwing it over their shoulder or twisting the torso, but this can lead to injury. Bend at the knee and use the force of standing up to throw the snow up and in front of you, keeping hips and shoulders square.
  • Keep the back straight. When needing to bend over, bend at the hips, not with at your back. The spine should always remain straight.
  • Keep heavy loads close. Loading up the shovel with as much snow as possible could make the job quicker, but it is a fast way to injure yourself. When shoveling this large load, keep the heavy snow closest to your center of gravity. Using your legs is crucial; never extend the arms to get rid of the snow.
  • Hold the shovel properly. When holding the shovel, you want to keep your hands about a foot apart from each other to disperse the weight of the snow. People often keep their dominant hand on the handle but switching the placement of your hands can help avoid exhaustion of one arm, and therefore injury.


  • Taking breaks when your body is starting to feel achy can help prevent overuse. Stand up, stretch out the back, legs, and shoulders. Take a minute to breathe, take a drink of water, and you will be ready for the next round.
  • Taking lighter loads instead of getting as much snow on the shovel as possible is better. This is easier and reduces the chances of doing an incorrect technique.
  • Of course, shoveling is always better with another person. Find a fellow family member or neighbor to split the load and quickly pass the time.

Of course, we in Minnesota know better than anyone that this chore comes early and often. Learning these techniques is a lifelong skill that is beneficial to master. If you are experiencing back pain or want an evaluation of your body mechanics, feel free to contact us by visiting our website to schedule a free consultation with one of our fabulous physical therapists!

In Health,

Hillary Rotunda

Hillary Rotunda, B.A.
LYL Executive Assistant

Starting from when she was a little girl, Hillary’s passion has always been in living a healthy way of life through movement and eating right. She played many sports when growing up but ended up sticking with volleyball and softball through college at Concordia College in Moorhead. While at Concordia, she earned a double major in exercise science and nutrition, graduating in 2015. After moving to the cities from my long-time home of the Fargo area, she was not quite sure what her passion was until she started working as a personal trainer. She learned from brilliant personal trainers and physical therapists, which led to her discovery of corrective exercise being her passion. She has decided to finish up the classes needed to apply for physical therapy school, which she plans on doing soon! She is excited to be at Live Your Life Physical Therapy to learn as much as she can from Dr. Norman and all the physical therapist on staff!

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