Snow Shoveling and Physical Therapy

Snow Shoveling and Physical Therapy

During the winter months, snow shovelling becomes a daily activity required to clear drives or footpaths. This form of activity is only performed a few times a year, making it one that individuals may not necessarily be used to. As a result, there is always a chance that the back suffers some form of injury that can limit them from performing activities of daily living.

Epidemiological studies have shown that nearly 12,000 individuals seek help for snow shovelling related injuries every year in the United States. In nearly 34% of cases, the injuries tend to affect the low back. Excessive joint loading and over-exertion of the musculoskeletal system have been implicated in the etiology. Typically, patients who do not perform regular physical activity, or those who are elderly tend to develop this problem. Physical therapy forms an integral part of the management of snow shovelling injuries, and here we shall take a look at this in a little more detail.

The Role of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is the primary treatment of snow shovel related injuries, and is often combined with analgesia. When managing this condition, there are certain precautionary measures that need to be taken to prevent injuries from occurring.

The primary piece of advice given by the physical therapists would be that patients adequately warm up before snow shovelling. This can not only loosen up the joints; it can increase blood supply to the muscles and reduce injury. Physical therapists will also advise patients of the type of shovel that is ideally used to prevent injury. Studies have shown that using a bent-shaft snow shovel can reduce incidence of low back injuries sustained during snow shovelling. Of course, having a lighter shovel can also make a significant difference.

When shovelling snow, ensuring that the amount of snow shovelled each time is also important. Smaller quantities mean lesser weight lifted, which in turn reduces the strain on the back. Ideally, keeping the legs sufficiently apart and preventing excessive twisting of the torso during shovelling can prevent these injuries. Physical therapists often perform detailed posture assessments, determining biomechanics and specific movements of the lumbosacral spine.


Snow shovelling injuries are common, and must be treated appropriately. Physical therapy is integral in the management of this condition, and can help restore complete movement and quality of life.  Call 208.939.0533 to scedule a free consultation!