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It's time to shovel...be careful

by Dr. Amy Spoelstra
| December 8, 2010 8:00 PM

It seems like we just finished raking the leaves, in fact, just a few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of taking care of your spine while raking leaves. Whether we were ready for it or not, winter seems to have arrived a bit earlier than many would have liked. If you were like us, we hadn't yet cleaned the cob webs off our shovel yet and now it's been used and abused daily this past week.

My chiropractic practice is no exception when it comes to the extremely common complaint about shoveling during the winter months and about how much back and neck pain it causes. In a study I read recently, it stated that 73 percent of Ontario chiropractors surveyed said that improper shoveling techniques tops the list of winter back pain woes. With the kind of weather Coeur d'Alene has been experiencing so far this winter (or is it still fall?) I would guess that our percentage will be similar to the Canadians in Ontario with regard to back pain caused by shoveling.

So let me give you some tips so that hopefully you can remain pain free during your fun in the snow while shoveling. First, warming up before beginning is very important just as it is for any exercise or athletic activity. Shoveling is no different. Be sure to include stretches for the back, shoulders, arms and legs. Many of these muscles may not have been used in a while.

Remember last winter...shovels didn't get much use so those muscles may not have either. Second, try not to let the snow pile up. If you remove smaller amounts of snow more frequently, it will cause less strain. If you're going to be at it for a while, be sure to take breaks. A fatigued body asks for injury.

My next suggestion is to pick a quality shovel. Use a lightweight push-style shovel. If you use a metal shovel, spray it with Teflon first so snow won't stick. Choose a shovel that will allow you to stand upright without craning over to move the snow. The spine is not meant to be bent over for long periods of time. There are many ergonomically designed shovels made to reduce strain on the back. Shop around for the perfect shovel for you.

I know it may seem easier to throw the snow but I strongly suggest whenever possible try to push the snow to one side and avoid throwing it.

If you have to throw, avoid twisting and turning. Position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile. While pushing the snow, don't forget to bend your knees. Use your knees, legs and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.

If you have been taking care of your spine by having it checked by a chiropractor, you are on the right path to not only having your body better prepared for physical work and exercise but to living a healthier life year round.

Don't wait until an injury occurs while shoveling or while enjoying some other fun winter activity. Why not take care of your spine before and after you frolic in the snow or tend to the mundane task of shoveling? By taking care of your spine and having a chiropractic exam, you can prevent not only many annoying aches and pains but also many diseases that can be life threatening.

Let us explain more about how chiropractic can help you to live the healthy, vibrant life you were meant to live. Give us a call at (208) 667-7434 or stop by our office at 370 E. Kathleen Ave., Suite 600, Coeur d'Alene. You can also find us on the web at www.CDAHealth.com or on Facebook and Twitter by searching "Spoelstra Family Chiropractic."

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