If you are one of those folks who loves the changes of seasons and dreams of winter landscapes; the snow falling delicately, covering the earth in a beautiful blanket of glistening white, then good for you! But for the rest of us, winter can be the most brutal of all the seasons.
Snow, shoveling, and falling on the ice is great for an increase in chiropractic visits but not necessarily beneficial for the longevity of our patients.
Before you break out your parka and shovels, here are a few tips to make this “magical” time of year a little less painful.
1. Hire someone else to shovel the snow.
2. If option #1 is too pricey, find a teenager to shovel (they will be a fraction of the cost).
3. Sigh... no teenager? How about a snow blower? I prefer one with an electric start. Put a little gas in it, plug it in and push the button... Magic!
4. If #1, #2 and #3 are not feasible, follow the steps below for a more economical shoveling experience.
i. Break out your good shoes. The icier it gets, the dicier it gets. Let’s be honest, the majority of our patients are not necessarily the most athletic people. I would say only a handful of my patients work on their balance throughout the year and having them do so in the middle of a snowstorm is not the time to start. Wear boots with a tread or the use of slip on spikes on a heavy-duty shoe will also work.
ii. Nice Threads. A person does not need to look like an Eddie Bauer ad, but light layers with appropriate face mask (hat/ear muffs, gloves, etc) will keep all necessary parts warm, especially when first starting. Shovelling can burn upwards of 500 calories or more per hour, so it is important to remind patients that layers can be removed as their body temperature rises. This leads to my next point.
iii. Drink Your Water. Are you kidding me? Drink water when its 15 degrees outside? Yes! That amount of calorie burn is comparable to a lot of various high intensity exercises, and for patients who have not been working out, a quick sip break every 15-20 minutes will help reduce fatigue and the likelihood of injury. The “wetter” the snow, the heavier it gets, so light stretches before and during shovelling are a great way to get warmed-up for the main event.
iv. Get Salty. Remind patients to do a quick survey of the landscape. Do they see any glistening patches? Before they start shoveling, they can throw some salt down over the icy areas. Of course, throw some down after the area has been cleared too.
v. Stand Up Straight! Now for the part we as chiropractors drool over- proper posture. For years, I was the only female in my household who helped shovel. What I did not realize was I had been using shovels that were way to big for me. Think about it, would a person use the other gender’s golf clubs or baseball mitt? It forced me in the wrong position, just like a man would have to bend over more if he used my shovel. Home improvement stores have caught on to this. Shovels now come in all shapes and sizes, including properly designed ergonomics. A good shovel will allow a person to stand almost completely upright. The lightest model with the smallest shovel part is best. A lighter shovel reduces the weight, as a smaller shovel part allows for less snow per scoop. We as chiropractors know the less lumbar flexion with bending and lifting, the better.
vi. “Butts and Guts” When I was taking technique classes in chiropractic school, the professors loved the motto “butts and guts” when adjusting. Booty out just slightly, belly pulled in with the chest lifted. For shovelling the snow, patients do not need a pec and triceps recoil, but they do need to use their core and shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart (typical athletic stance), squat to get the shovel in position, and move the snow forward with the core and shoulders engaged (not thrown over the shoulders).
vii. “Its The Big One Ethel!” The ClevelandClinic.org reported that in 2015, over 11,000 people in the US went to the emergency room for chest pain and potential heart attacks due to shovelling the snow. Don’t forget to remind patients that if that have sudden pain, shortness of breathe, dizziness or any other symptoms, to stop immediately and seek medical treatment.
viii. Schedule Their Next Visit. As we know, shovelling snow is a moderate to highly vigorous activity, sometimes with very heavy lifting. The likelihood that a patient will need an adjustment after the first (and subsequent) snowfall is pretty high.
ix. Take A Holiday. If you are an unfortunate soul like me who lives in cold weather country, wait until the snow has all been shoveled, then go someplace warm. At least the sand on the beach does not cause heart attacks.
For more information on proper shovelling form check out
Kassandra M Schultz DC