Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

OUCH! wHEN SHOVELING SNOW LAYS YOU LOW

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

OUCH! wHEN SHOVELING SNOW LAYS YOU LOW

Article excerpt

This year, Old Man Winter has been a real pain in the neck. And in the shoulders. And in the lower back.

Especially the lower back, says Artie Beltramba, 52, of Little Falls. One of the season's first storms left him in crippling pain after a round of shoveling.

"It was like somebody stabbed me in the back with a knife," he said. "I couldn't do anything."

For five days he was basically bedridden, nearly unable to sit up without screaming, using ice packs, heating pads and aspirin to dull the pain. It eventually went away, but every time he has to shovel again -- "like every three days" -- it flares up again.

Beltramba is hardly alone. North Jersey doctors reported seeing an increased number of patients with shoveling-related pain and injuries this winter.

And the recent wet, heavy snow hasn't made things easier. Dr. Asit K. Shah, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center's associate chief of the Department of Orthopedics, said it's "great for snowball fights, but sucks for the back."

"Shoveling is a pretty intense exercise," Shah added. "It's like working out at a gym."

And pain from it is treated similarly, said Dr. Priscilla Kaszubski, chair of rehabilitation medicine at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson. "All these aches and pains from shoveling are almost like an overuse injury, a sports overuse injury," she said.

With warm weather forecast for the weekend, it looks like North Jersey will get a short reprieve from the constant storms. But if you're in too much pain to enjoy it, North Jersey doctors offered their recovery advice:

* Take full doses of anti-inflammatory medications -- Advil, ibuprofen and Motrin, Kaszubski advised.

* Use ice to alleviate inflammation, said Dr. Melissa Rusli, a physiatrist affiliated with The Valley Hospital Spine Center in Ridgewood and Rehabilitation Specialists of New Jersey.

* If the pain persists, visit your doctor.

But we're not done with winter yet. Early forecasts show a dip in temperatures next week, and maybe even more snow. So keep your ergonomic shovels handy, and follow the doctors' orders to keep you pain-free:

* Stretch before and after shoveling. …

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