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Winter Weather

Jose Garcia of Sioux City removes snow from his girlfriend's house on Pierce Street in Sioux City, Iowa on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Sioux City Journal Photo by Justin Wan

SIOUX CITY | If you feel a pop or a surge of extreme pain in your back, stop shoveling immediately.

Nick Chicoine, a chiropractor at the BAC Clinic, 1501 Nebraska St., said the bending and twisting associated with blizzard cleanup often results in low back sprains. After shoveling multiple times in one day, he said people lose their posture and their form. That's when injuries occur.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 203,000 Americans received treatment for injuries suffered while manually clearing snow in 2014.

"People tend to try and lift more than they should in one scoop than taking multiple little scoops," Chicoine said. "Any time you're bending at your waist and loading your core, you're putting a lot more pressure on your low back, especially L4, L5 discs."

The design of most shovels, Chicoine said, forces people to hunch over. He recommends purchasing a more ergonomically correct shovel that allows the back to remain more upright. As far as shoveling posture, he said shoulders should be back and lined up over your hips and your hips should be over your knees.

"You basically just don't want to be bending forward to put that 90 degree angle in your waist," he said. "Because the more forward you bend, the more your lumbar extensor muscles -- basically the muscles in your deep low back -- are kind of forced to work overtime. A lot of times they aren't able to support you."

Chicoine advises taking breaks to let your back rest a few minutes and lifting smaller loads of snow. If your back starts hurting, he said it's time to apply ice, rest and relax.

Visiting a chiropractor, Chicoine said, should happen sooner rather than later so a minor injury doesn't turn into a major one.

"If you're able to get in and get it moving right away, then your body is going to regulate itself and resolve a lot faster than if you let it sit there and let that inflammation build up," he said.

Depending on the injury, Chicoine said he might treat with an adjustment, ultrasound and/or massage.

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Health & Lifestyles Reporter

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