Back to shoveling

Perhaps no other activity gets a chiropractor’s phone ringing than shoveling snow in the winter months. While chiropractors gladly take those calls and treat patients injured shoveling snow, it’s far preferable to treat people who are not in distress.

“It is very easy to strain your back while shoveling snow for any number of reasons. It’s cold. Many times it’s early and you’re body is not awake or loose. Most of all, it’s not an activity people do every day,” said Dr. Michael Gottfried, president of the Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island and chiropractic physician at Aquidneck Chiropractic in Middletown, Rhode Island. “All of this makes for a perfect storm for back issues and more serious issues, like heart attacks.”

Dr. Gottfried recommends paying close attention to weather forecasts. If you have to shovel to get your vehicle out to get to work, give yourself extra time and shovel as early as you can when the snow is lighter. Be sure to do some warmup stretching for muscles that aren’t used to the shoveling motion.

When you shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don't try to throw it to the side. Walk it to the snow bank and avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.  Always remember to bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back. 

It’s also important to take frequent breaks to avoid overdoing it. And if you feel chest pain or feel tired or have shortness of breath, don’t try to work through it, you may need immediate emergency medical help.

“Your overall condition is often the biggest determinant of whether or not shoveling is risky for you. If the only exercise you get is shoveling snow, you are setting yourself up for problems. If you exercise regularly, eat right and take other preventative measures, such as regular chiropractic treatment, you are probably less likely to injure yourself while shoveling snow,” said Dr. Gottfried.

If you are not currently seeing a chiropractor and want to explore how chiropractic can benefit your overall condition before and after shoveling, you can utilize the “Find A Doctor” feature on the Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island’s website,

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