There is a right and wrong way to shovel snow (this same advice applies to dirt/sand/gravel in the summer). Back muscle strain or spinal disc damage may result in individuals who shovel the wrong. Snow removal can be physically demanding. The important question is, "how do you perform this task without injuring you back?"
1. Don't lift the snow unless you have to. When you can, push. Pushing snow is less demanding on your back than lifting the weight of the snow.
2. Rest and stretch frequently. It is easy to say, “I only have about 10 minutes of work left, I will rest then”. Then 30 or 40 minutes later your back hurts and may be beyond a simple recovery. Consider pausing about every 5 minutes to stand straight and even stretch backward for a few seconds, countering the forward position you have been in shoveling. Spend more time before and after shoveling to stretch as well. Try to do this 'before' pain begins.
3. Do not bend and twist. People often lift a heavy shovel of wet snow and then twist at the waist to throw the snow toward their side or behind them. This motion puts a considerable physical demand on the lower back muscles and the cartilage discs. Try to move in the direction you want the snow to go. Throw the snow forward, not to the side or behind.
If you can't avoid throwing the snow behind you or to the side, turn you entire body by stepping with your feet in that direction, not your back. Don’t twist.
4. Don’t force shoveling if you begin to feel pain or notable muscle weakness. This is a message from your body that you have a pending potential injury. Stop, take a break and stretch if you can. If pain continues or worsens seek medical attention. If the pain goes away, consider waiting to complete the task and see how you do in the next 24 hours.
5. Pick a shovel that is lightweight and reasonable in size. A bigger shovel can move more snow and get the job done faster, but requires you to lift a heavier load.
6. Keep the shovel (weight) close to your body. If you must lift the snow and not push, lift with your legs. Lifting with your back from a forward bent position increases chance of injury. Again, avoid twisting motions. Throw forward.
7. If you have time, shovel once before the snow stops and then again later. This of course reduces the amount of snow you need to move at one time.
If you must shovel deep snow, take about 1/2 or less of the actual snow depth, then the rest on the second or third scoop. Again, this may take longer but with less chance of injury.
Lastly, don’t forget that with any physical activity, if you feel any shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, or severe muscle pain you should stop and seek immediate medical attention.
Questions? Feel free to call me at (608) 781-0174