The snow has not been on the ground for 24 hours and already chiropractor Kyle Bowers of Columbia is getting calls. "They either walk on the snow and slip or shovel and strain their back," says Bowers who runs Bowers Chiropractic clinic on Peachtree Drive.
Every year he sees people who try to do too much, or do it the wrong way and hurt their back. He says it's not just their technique in shoveling snow, but they're carrying too much. "Most people load up the shovel," he explains. Bowers says a shovel load frequently weighs 7 pounds and a person should only lift half that much.
It's also about the stance. "The scissors stance is best." Bowers describes it as when you split your legs with one in the front. He says avoid twisting the body while carrying a load. Even twisting the wrist can cause a sprain.
Bowers says pushing the snow forward is best or using the scissors stance to tip the snow to the side.
Bowers often shares this article with his patients which includes tips from The Association of New Jersey Chiropractors.
Experts recommend people stretch before they shovel, just like they would do before any athletic activity. And shoveling first thing in the morning may not be best. Dr. Dan Claps recommends you shovel in the afternoon because in the morning, the discs in the spine are more filled with fluid, and prone to injury.
While there is some debate over shovel design, Claps says it's not necessary to have a shovel that's "ergonomically" correct but you do need one that's not too short causing you to bend over more than necessary.
The New Jersey Chiropractors recommend these tips for shovelers.
Be prepared. Maintain your exercise program year-round.
Listen to weather forecasts so you can rise early and have time to shovel before work; rushing the job can lead to injury.
Wear layers of clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible.
Do some stretching before you grab the shovel.
For big jobs use a motorized snow blower. If you shovel by hand, use a lightweight, ergonomically-designed shovel to reduce back strain.
When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don't try to throw it; walk it to the snowbank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.
Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.
Stop if you feel chest pain, or get excessively tired or have shortness of breath. You may require immediate professional care.
If you feel sore after shoveling, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two.
Have you ever suffered an injury while shoveling? Do you have tips for others on how to get the job done without pain? Join the discussion and add a comment to this story.