Lower back pain (LBP) is common among working adults, especially those who do a lot of physical work. People spend thousands of dollars to have their backs treated.
According to a study at the University of Quebec, the estimated cost of back pain ranges from $1.9 – 3.9 billion dollars in a year. That’s in Quebec alone. Just imagine how big the numbers would go if we include the rest of Canada and the United States.
In this same study, they noted that those people who experience back pain are those who are working in prolonged postures in a day. This also includes physical labor, that involves bending and lifting. While it could come in varied factors, one thing is for sure: our posture in doing our day-to-day tasks affect our lower back.
One of the most vigorous works done during and after winter is snow shoveling. It involves bending and lifting. When it’s not done right, it can cause major injury in the lower back. You can be diagnosed with a minor muscle strain or something worse like a slipped lumbar disc in your spine, which can be extremely painful. My mother had a bulged disc and it caused severe pain making even walking a difficult task, preventing such back injuries should be something to consider, just trust me.
When you live in a place that gets enough snow that shoveling is required you should find an ergonomic snow shovel that will keep you in tip-top shape.
Can Shoveling Snow Hurt My Back?
Indeed, shoveling some snow can hurt your back and it could do much more damage than you would ever imagine.
In a study by Daniel Watson on the ‘Snow shovel–related injuries and medical emergencies treated in US EDs, 1990 to 2006’, it shows that there’s an average of 11,500 snow shovel-related injuries reported in the entire United States in just a year. This includes injuries like acute musculoskeletal exertion and cardiovascular emergencies.
Throughout the study between 1990 to 2006, 56.5% (109, 700 cases) are related to musculoskeletal injuries located in the trunk. From that number, there were 66, 900 cases, or 34.3% of those experiencing lower back pains.
Snow shoveling might seem like an easy task, but it entails a lot of body coordination. It also affects different joints and muscles – from arms down to the legs. But the most affected part of it is the back due to standing, bending, and lifting. This is why it is essential to find ergonomic snow shovels that can aid you with the task, so your back won’t hurt so bad right after.
What Should I look for in a Snow Shovel if I have Back Pain?
Not all snow shovels are the same. Some are made to make it less painful for your back, while others are designed to gather as much snow as possible. If you have an existing back condition or have chronic back pains but still need to shovel some snow, take note of the following key factors that you should look for in a snow shovel. These are important in the prevention of having back pain from shoveling and to lessen the pain you may already have when shoveling.
On top of your list is to check if it has an ergonomic shovel design. These shovels have a bent shaft to help in reducing the mechanical loading of your lower back.
According to a study about the ‘Influence of Snow Shovel Shaft Configuration on Lumbosacral Biomechanics During a Load-Lifting Task,’ a bent-shaft shovel is ergonomically designed to reduce the extension movements in shoveling, lifting the snow load, and pouring it out of the shovel.
The study has proven that an ergonomic shovel will most likely reduce mechanical loading in the upper body that correlates and directly affects the lower back. Thus, reducing back pain.
Some shovels come with a push-and-slide mechanism that allows you to simply push the shovel to the snow, and it can slide itself in place rather than lifting the entire weight. This is typically a wheel that removes the users strain to lift, making the strain much less to push.
This makes it easier for you to carry out snow, giving less strain to your lower back while lifting and pushing loads of snow. It’s perfect for pushing of a deck!
The snow you’re shoveling is already extremely heavy in itself. While some people would opt for a metal blade because it seems sturdier, but if it’s a heavy metal it might be recommended to stick with plastic or aluminum, whatever is lighter in weight.
Lastly, look for a shovel size that is just right for you.
One reason is that a bigger shovel means a heavier one that may not be proportionate to your body size. This means additional strain to your upper and lower back. The worst thing that can happen to you if you use a bigger shovel is it can potentially cause worse health issues like cardiac arrest. Based on the study by Watson et al., on the common shovel-related injuries and medical emergencies, heart attacks may be the least effects of shoveling on their research, but it is also the worst.
Another reason is that a bigger shovel makes it difficult for you to have a proper position in shoveling, lifting, and loading. When you have a bigger shovel, you would need to extend your arms more, straining your shoulders and upper back muscles. Wrong lifting techniques can also cause a higher risk of lower back or lumbar injuries.
10 Best Snow Shovels for Bad Backs
Snow Joe’s Shovelution boasts itself of reducing back strains with their snow shovel. It is designed to have a two-handle grip ergonomically positioned to make sure your hands are just at the right distance from each other.
Its lower hand handle comes with a spring mechanism that lifts and slides the snow inwards without the need to bend. With this, you won’t have to feel the weight of the load that much. This system is designed to use your upper body strength in shoveling rather than straining your back.
It seems pretty lightweight for a shovel since it uses more aluminum in its body. However, aluminum is not a very sturdy material, so it is advised that you use this shovel when the snow is soft and light.
Weight: 3.7 lbs
Height: 41.3 in
2. Ohuhu Snow Shovel for Driveway
Ohuhu’s snow shovel is best to clear snow out of your driveway. You can easily drag this outside, the wheels assisting you in ‘carrying’ the weight of the entire shovel.
One great thing about this now shovel is on how adjustable its parts are. The lever can be adjusted up to 45 degrees, while its height can be adjusted up to 40.9 inches, so you won’t have any difficulty in pushing the shovel around—no need to overreach for the handles or bend at a certain angle. The shovel itself does it for you.
The blade, too, can be adjusted up to 45 degrees to the left and right, allowing you to adjust its shoveling direction.
Its wheels are also made to gain traction while on the snow, so it won’t skid or slide while you are shoveling.
Weight: 24.9 lbs
Height: 6.9in adjustable up to 40.9in
3. True Temper SnoForce
True Tempers SnoForce is the boss when it comes to ergonomic design.
Aside from its curved handle (that is more advised to reduce strains), it also has hand grips on different height or levels so you can adjust where to hold according to your height. This mechanism reduces the stress on your back.
Its height is at 57 inches making it ideal for taller people too. With this height plus its ergonomic design, shoveling some snow would then be as easy as just pushing it rather than bending and lifting to discard snow. If you like this shovel but want a stronger scraper they also offer it with the steel blade end.
Weight: 5.6 lbs
4. Ivation Snow Pusher Scoop Shovel with Wheels
Another great snow shovel is Ivation’s Snow Pusher Scoop Shovel. The name itself will tell you that snow shoveling wouldn’t require as much work with this product.
You just have to push to scoop up some snow. It’s that simple. Plus, it has pre-installed wheels making it easy to bring out and store, to move and push around, and to incline and discard some snow.
Its handle is adjustable up to 36.5 inches to suit your height, so you won’t have to exert that much effort in reaching the handles to shovel some snow.
Material: Steel Blade, Aluminum Handle, Plastic Scoop
Weight: 13.77 lbs
Height: Up to 36.5 inches
ErgieShovel works pretty much like Shovelution. It has the same two handle grip that is set at a distance between both hands so as not to strain your back when shoveling.
Its blades are made to push and scoop the snow using the lower hand handle. This same mechanism reduces back strains because you don’t have to bend and lift that much as you do with ordinary snow shovels.
Weight: 4 lbs
Height: 28 in
6. Suncast SF1725 17.5-Inch No Lift Easy Glide Snow Shovel
Another shovel with a great height is Suncast’s No Lift, Easy-Glide Snow shovel. The name pretty much speaks for what it can do.
It has a glide or pushes mechanism that makes it easier to scoop the snow out. There’s no need to lift such heavyweight anymore, so you’re assured that you won’t strain your back from shoveling all day.
It can also be easily stored. You just have to loosen and adjust the knob at the bottom of the blade where the lever is, and just slide it up.
Weight: 6.79 lbs
Height: 58 in
7. Bosse Tools Professional-Grade, Ergonomic Snow Shovel
Bosse’s Ergonomic Snow Shovel has a different feature to its handle that you cannot find in other products.
It has a 360-degree adjustable handle that allows you to turn it to an angle that you’re comfortable holding. This reduces any stress and strain on your wrist.
However, it is not movable. So, the distance between handles is fixed, which might not be as ergonomic for those who find the gap too close in between. The height of the shovel itself is also set. Since it is just around 52 inches tall, this shovel is best for those who are at most 5 feet in height.
Material: Steel/Polypryolene Head
Weight: 4.99 lbs
Height: 52 in
This Garant True Temper Sleigh Shovel might look too simple, but everything in its design spells out a great ergonomic shovel for snow removal.
The handles are curved, which makes it easier to grip and push the shovel. The lever is at an incline that doesn’t require you to bend or lift the shovel. All you have to do is push and slide the shovel out of the way to clear out snow in the driveway or pavement.
Material: Steel Handle/Poly-Coated Blade
Weight: 10.48 lbs
Height: Up to 55 inches
9. True Temper 1603072 Ergonomic Snow Shovel
True Temper’s Ergonomic Snow Shovel looks like any ordinary snow shovel, but its slight bend creates the ergonomic handle to help reduce back pain while shoveling. It’s simple but lightweight design requires less bending and leaning over when shoveling.
What makes this ergonomic is its handle is in a D-shaped form for a more comfortable grip. Plus, its lever is curved enough to ease with the bending. Other than that, it’s a simple snow shovel I would give a 5-star rating based on size and affordability.
Weight: 3 lbs
Height: 54 inches
10. Snow Plow Shovel Pusher with Wheels
This Snow Plow Shovel with wheels makes it easier to push and shovel snow away from your driveway.
The handle is padded and is adjustable to give you more comfort when you push the snow. Its wheels make pushing a breeze. You won’t even have to exert as much effort, especially when the snow is lightweight.
It is also set at an angle that is comfortable enough to hold and push. It sort of mimics the notion of pushing a stroller or a shopping cart.
Material: Metal/Polypryolene Plow/Foam-covered Handle
Weight: 9.73 lbs
Height: 45″ – 56″ grip height plus the shovel and wheels
Preparing Your Body for Snow Shoveling
Now that you know what to look for in a snow shovel and getting to know the top 10 ergonomic shovels on the list, we have to add a few reminders and tips to ease your back pains when snow shoveling. And the best way to do it is to prepare your body for this strenuous activity.
Here’s what you can do:
- Do light exercises to warm your body up for the activity. Stretching exercises and doing a little bit of cardio can help your body prepare for a more intense activity ahead.
- Don’t eat, smoke, or drink caffeine before you shovel. Stimulants can increase your heart rate and constricts your blood vessels.
- Wear proper clothing to keep you warm and dry. Wear as many layers if possible. Use gloves to avoid blisters and boots that provide traction on the snow.
- Pace yourself when shoveling. Don’t overexert and overdo it. Don’t haste. This can cause more injuries than taking it slow. Take breaks in between to rest your heart and muscles.
- Create more distance between your hands while shoveling. It allows you to lift the snow load easily. Keeping your hands too close only adds to your muscle strain.
- When bending and lifting, always remember to maintain proper posture. Remember to use your knees and legs to shove and lift, not your back.
Good luck finding the best snow shovel for your back pain. Remember to stay safe and if there’s too much snow either wait it out or hire someone to remove it for you. Sometimes shoveling isn’t worth the suffering it may cause, have good judgment of the situation. The last thing you want to do is get injured from shoveling snow.
A great shoveling alternative is using snow melting pads, read our article on the 9 best snow melting mats that will clear snow without having to shovel!
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.