Tips to save snow shoveling spines

More snow is on the way today, and it’s taking a toll on our joints and backs! As Cache Valley residents continue to dig out, their spinal pains and strains are keeping area chiropractors busy.

Dr. Thomas Fullmer, a chiropractor at Advanced Spine and Health Center in Providence, said he’s had at least five or six patients visit his practice this month with new symptoms of herniated discs, directly resulting from moving the heavy snow.

“They said, ‘I was shoveling yesterday and felt something give in my back, and now I need you to save me,’” Fullmer said, “so that’s what we try to do!”

Along with spinal adjustments, Dr. Fullmer provides services like preventative health care, nutrition guidance, massage and therapeutic procedures to help patients maintain optimal health.  His tongue-in-cheek advice about snow shoveling also includes practical suggestions.

“The number one thing, probably, is to get a snow blower,” he said. “That should help your back out pretty good—or get someone else to shovel!”

If neither of those options is feasible, Fullmer recommends some simple pointers in technique:

<ul><li>Try not to hunch over. Hunching over compromises the proper biomechanics of our backs.</li><li>Consider using a longer shovel that allows you to stand straighter.</li><li>Use the strength in your arms more, rather than pushing and lifting primarily with your back.</li><li>Bend your knees slightly as you lift the shovel and engage your core.</li><li>Push the snow as much as possible instead of trying to pick it all up.  While that’s difficult with this much snow, lift what can’t be pushed in smaller scoops.</li><li>Stay hydrated. Joints can become compromised if they don’t have enough fluid, so drinking plenty of water is important.</li></ul>

If a snow shoveling injury occurs, Fullmer recommends using ice instead of heat to soothe the pain. While he doesn’t recommend sleeping on ice, he said applying it to a sore joint for 20 minutes before bedtime can provide significant relief.

“Bring the temperatures down on those tissues,” he said. “Inflammation is a three-legged stool—heat, swelling and pain. If you can take out one of those legs, you can bring down the inflammation levels. There’s plenty of snow out there. Put it in a Ziploc baggie and put that on your back!”

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