The Body Mechanic

Written by integrativetherapeutics on . Posted in The Body Mechanic, by Todd A. Forman, PT

I am consistently surprised at the speed time seems to pass.  October 1st of this year will mark the start of our third year in the new office location.  In many ways, it feels like this space has always been our home, yet in others, I cannot believe that much time has passed that quickly.
Our first winter at this office was marked by more snow that we have seen in a while. Unfortunately, many Integrative clients found themselves getting acquainted with our then-new office space because they had injured themselves moving snow, or slipping on ice that never seemed to fade.  I thought that, not knowing what this winter will bring, that I would review what I discussed with many of you that particular winter: how to minimize injury when dealing with snow.

I have said for many years that the only safe way to remove snow is to have someone else do it.  While I stand by that recommendation, I recognize that, for many of us, there is no other option but to do it yourself.  (Snow removal falls to my lot in my household as well…).
First and foremost: heavy wet snow is dangerous!  Many people suffer heart attacks when shoveling heavy, wet snow, usually from the repetitive straining and  breath holding that inevitably accompanies trying to move the concrete-like weight on the end of a shovel.  So, with heavy snowfall, please be sure to get help with snow removal!  Also, please remember to take smaller “bites” with the shovel, and rest frequently.  And please don’t hold your breath while shoveling.  If possible, during long storms, try to clear some snow several times during the storm.  It means more time dealing with the snow, unfortunately, but there is also less of a chance of becoming overwhelmed by a large snowfall.
Second, as many of you have heard from me over the years, the human spine is quite vulnerable the bending and twisting motions that accompany shoveling.  There are a number of strategies for minimizing injury due to these motions while clearing snow.  First, I have found that the offset handle snow shovels (the ones with the bend handle- they sort of look like they were run over by a truck…) are helpful because they do not require such a large forward bend at the trunk to get the blade of the shovel where it needs to be.  Also, whenever possible, push the snow (like a plow) with the shovel, rather than lift it.  Finally, avoid long throws with the shovel. Instead, walk the snow to where it needs to go.
Third, and last, for those of you who use snow blowers, please heed the single best piece of advice regarding this piece of equipment:  do not put your hand in the discharge chute at any time for any reason.  It bears repeating: Do not put your hand in the discharge chute at any time for any reason!   The owner of a local hardware store where I purchased my machine told me that, unfortunately, one of his customers seems to lose one or several fingers to a snow blower each year (not the same customer….), despite the fact that he gives this warning each time he sells a unit.  I was always surprised that this would happen- I mean, who puts their fingers in a moving snow blower?  He told me that what causes injury many times is that, when the machine is jammed, there is a great deal of torque stored in the blade mechanism.  So, even with the unit off and the spark plug disconnected, when the snow is removed, the blade many times rotates half a turn.  If it is fingers doing the removing, they get removed.  So please, use a broom handle or some other narrow prop to remove clogs.
While I have no wish to “skip over” fall (personally, my favorite season), I do hope that this winter brings fewer injuries than the winter of 2010.
As always, if any of you have any questions about these recommendations, or anything else please do not hesitate to contact me at: tforman@integrativetherapeutics.com or at the office at 508-647-3200.
Happy Fall!Todd

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