Canadian Chiropractors Warn About Improper Snow Shoveling

An article that appeared in the January 28, 2004 issue of the Parry Sound “North Star” started with the headline, “Don’t throw your back out while throwing snow”. The article warns readers about the possible spinal problems that can result from Improper Snow Shoveling.

Dr. Dean Wright, president of the Ontario Chiropractic Association stated in the article, “Chiropractors are finding that some patients experience back and muscle pain as a result of improper snow shoveling technique.” He continued, “Improper technique can be anything from bending at the waist instead of at the knees to throwing snow instead of pushing it. When you combine improper technique with the average weight of one shovelful of snow, three to five kilograms, the result can be a serious problem for both adults and the children who help them.”

Dr. Kristina Peterson, a chiropractor in Thunder Bay added, “Back problems can surface in patients during the winter, especially those who are unaccustomed to participating in challenging physical activity on a regular basis. Activities requiring exertion, such as winter sports or pushing a stranded car, can lead to back injuries. However, snow shoveling, slips and falls are the top reasons patients present with back and muscle pain in the winter.”

To help prevent problems, the Ontario Chiropractic Association offers the following preventive tips:

  • Warm-up. Before beginning any snow removal, warm-up for five to 10 minutes to get the joints moving and increase blood circulation. A good warm-up should include stretches for the back, shoulders, arms and legs. This will ensure that your body is ready for action.
  • Don’t let the snow pile up. Removing small amounts of snow on a frequent basis is less strenuous in the long run.
  • Pick the right shovel. Use a lightweight, non-stick, push-style shovel.
  • Push, don’t throw. Push the snow to one side and avoid throwing. If you must throw, avoid twisting and turning — position yourself to throw straight at the snow pile.
  • Bend your knees. Use your knees, leg and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting while keeping your back straight.
  • Watch the ice. Coarse sand, ice salt, ice melter, or even kitty litter can help to give your walk and drive ways more traction, reducing the chance of a slip or fall.
  • Wear proper footwear. Shoes and boots with solid treads on the soles can help to minimize the risk of slips and falls.
  • Take a break. If you feel tired or short of breath, stop and take a rest. Stop shoveling immediately if you feel chest or back pain.

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