Let it Snow! Shoveling Safety.
As our days become colder the time will be soon when our green lawns are met by the touch of Jack Frost and a blanket of snow covers the ground, we must dust off our snow shovels and prepare for our much anticipated winter workout. Before we tackle this winter fun, there are a few things to remember to keep us safe and pain free.
Select the proper shovel. A nice light-weight shovel with a long handle is preferred. You can use an ergonomic shovel with a contoured handle if you choose. The push type shovels do work well for the lighter snows but should not be used to throw snow.
Remember to pace yourself. This is a high level activity you have not performed in about 8 months so your conditioning for throwing snow is probably not great. Slow and steady with frequent breaks is the way to go.
Proper body mechanics are essential. Start with a wide base of support with your feet staggered about shoulder width apart. Keeping your knees bent and back straight, shovel in the direction of your front foot. Use your legs to help lift the snow, not your back, and take manageable scoops of snow. (Just one over-packed shovel can lead to the back pain we are trying to prevent.) Keep the load close to your body and throw the snow in the direction of your front foot, avoiding any kind of twisting motion of your spine.
If you fail to follow these suggestions or you just are unfortunate enough to be one of the 7.6 million Americans to get back pain, we have some simple solutions that may help.
Stay active. Resting for more than 24 hours after your back injury can actually have a negative effect on your recovery. Keep moving with a conscience effort to maintain a proper upright posture. Try ice on the area of your back that hurts for the first 24 hours and then you can use either heat or ice, depending on what feels the best for you. Try and stay out that Lazy-Boy! Although this may initially feel great, you soon will likely feel an increase in pain and/or you will have an incredibly tough time getting out of it as your muscle will tighten up and spasm.
If your back pain is persisting for more than a couple of days you may want to come in and see one of the expert physical therapists at Makovicka Physical Therapy. We can evaluate your symptoms and develop a plan to get your pain under control and restore you back to health. Your physical therapist may utilize some hands on approaches including soft tissue and spinal mobilization techniques and modalities for decreasing muscle spasm and pain control. We will teach you specific stretches and body positioning to allow your back to recover quicker and with less pain. The final step is to provide exercises to improve core strength and flexibility, decreasing the chance of re-occurrence of your back pain. (A word of caution: I f you begin having bowel or bladder dysfunction immediately go to the emergency department as this can be a sign of serious nerve injury.)
Please do not hesitate to contact one of our 6 locations if you are experiencing any type of back pain. Delaying your treatment can potentially delay your recovery and increase your risk for re-injury.
Jeff Arnold, PT, DPT, OCS,