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Canadian Poll Says Snow Shoveling Number One Cause of Winter Back Pain

A new poll from Canada points to snow shoveling as the leading cause of back and neck pain during the winter months. In the poll, 73 per cent of Ontario chiropractors surveyed say improper shoveling technique tops the list of reasons for winter back pain problems.

The story, reported in the January 9, 2003 Canadian News Wire, Quotes Dr. Dennis Mizel, President of the Ontario Chiropractic Association, who said, "Chiropractors are finding that some patients experience back and neck pain as a result of improper snow shoveling technique. Improper technique can be anything from bending at the waist instead of the knees to throwing snow instead of pushing it. When you combine improper technique with the average weight of one shovelful of snow (five to seven pounds) it becomes even more evident that this is a serious problem for both adults and the children who help them."

Dr. Kristina Peterson, a chiropractor in Thunder Bay was also quoted in the article, "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 that is higher than one's daily routine such as winter sports or pushing stuck cars can cause back injuries. However, snow shoveling is the number one reason patients present with back pain in the winter."

The Ontario Chiropractic Association offers the following preventive measures to help keep backs in shape:

Warm-up. Before beginning any snow removal, warm-up for five to ten 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 push-style shovel. If you use a metal shovel, spray it with Teflon first so snow won't stick.

Push, don't throw. Push the snow to one side and avoid throwing it as much as possible. If you have to 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.

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.