Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside

The cold snap that brought snow and freezing temperatures to the northeast continues this week. If you are still digging out, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Stretch out before venturing outside. Get your blood pumping and joints moving by stretching the arms, back, shoulders and legs. Devoting a few minutes to exercise prepares your body for the vigors of shoveling and helps avoid any muscle pulls.
  • Wear sturdy boots/shoes with good tread to maximize your footing and help minimize the risk of a fall. If possible, try sprinkling some sand underfoot to provide some extra traction.
  • Dress properly to avoid hypothermia, a dangerous condition where body temperature drops. Layers are best. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated. Avoid caffeinated drinks.
  • Use a lightweight, ergonomically-designed, non-stick shovel.
  • Fresh snow is light snow -- get out and clear your walkway before it compacts on the ground.
  • When shoveling, try to push the snow to the side, rather than lifting. Stand with your feet apart at hip width to maintain proper balance.
  • If you must dig and toss the snow, lift with your legs, keeping your back straight; tighten your stomach muscle to avoid straining your back. Avoid twisting your body; rotate your entire body to face the direction you are throwing in.
  • Start slowly and pace yourself to avoid placing a sudden stress on your heart. Remember that cold air makes it harder to breathe and work, placing more demand on your body.
  • Know when to call it quits. If you're feeling pain or exhaustion take a break.
  • If you are elderly, a heavy smoker, have a heart condition or a history of back problems, or lead a sedentary lifestyle, it's best to avoid shoveling altogether. Enlist the help of family members or kind neighbors.

Despite the best intentions to shovel properly, injuries sometimes do occur. Stress from lifting during the winter season can cause lower back strain, muscle spasms, disc damage, and even spinal fractures. If you experience pain, seek help immediately. Your chiropractor can help pinpoint the cause of the pain, relieve the problem, and get you feeling in tip top shape again.

-- Dr. Keri Chiappino & Dr. Brent Reynolds