News, tips and stories from our doctors
News, tips and stories from our doctors
The Back Bulletin
December 2018

How NOT to Hurt Your Back Shoveling Snow This Season

Snow shoveling is one of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months. However, this type of injury is preventable if you know the best ways to remove snow without straining your back. The following tips can help you avoid low back injuries and pain during the snowy winter season.
Warm Up Beforehand
Take about 10 minutes to get your blood flowing with some light cardiovascular exercise like marching in place, and stretch your muscles before you begin shoveling snow.
Use Proper Lifting Techniques
  • Whenever possible, push the snow to one side rather than lifting it.
  • Face the object you intend to lift - square your shoulders and hips both toward it.
  • Bend at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
  • Keep your loads light and do not lift an object that is too heavy for you.
  • If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle.
  • Avoid twisting the back to move the snow to its new location - always pivot your whole body to face the new direction.
  • Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity - do not extend your arms to throw the snow.
  • Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing.
  • When gripping the shovel, keep your hands about 12 inches apart to provide greater stability and minimize the chances of injuring your low back.

Helpful Tips
Take frequent breaks (about every 15 minutes) to keep from getting overworked. Stretch your arms, shoulders, and back, and stay hydrated. And don’t let the snow pile up before you start removing it. It’s far easier to move small amounts of snow frequently, than it is to move a large amount all at once. So shovel early and often. And then head inside for a cup of hot chocolate. 

Dr. Wong Speaks at Singapore Orthopaedic Association

Dr. Wong was an invited guest speaker for the 41st meeting of the Singapore Orthopaedic Association (SOA) in November. The association assembled a diverse faculty from multiple orthopaedic subspecialties for the conference. Another guest speaker was Dr. George Thompson, Past President of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), who had been the Clinical Fellow with Dr. Robert Salter (Salter osteotomy of the hip, Salter classification of epiphyseal fractures) the same year Dr. Wong had been Dr. Salter’s research fellow. 

Dr. Wong gave talks on the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) 'Sign Your Site' patient safety program and the World Health Organization (WHO) surgical checklist which he had worked on when the Chairman of the Patient Safety Committees of both the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the North American Spine Society (NASS) as well as one of the United States representatives to the WHO Checklist working group.

Dr. Wong and Dr. Thompson served as judges for the SOA Young Investigator’s Award. Four high quality papers where a resident from the Singapore program was the primary author were the finalists in the competition.

A hands on lab preceded the SOA meeting. Dr. Wong presented cases in the didactic portion of the lab to illustrate instrumentation options for different spine pathologies.

Traditional Singapore dancing and music highlighted the opening ceremony. And faculty dinners were held at interesting venues around the main lagoon in Singapore.

Patient Spotlight:

Robert Adler

Navy veteran Robert Adler has seen his share of pain and injury, he crashed in the private plane he helped build in 2004 and broke his back, then he broke multiple bones in a motorcycle accident on his Harley Davidson in 2012. So, it was ironic that a slip and fall on some ice was what brought Robert to his pain threshold last February. Injections and physical therapy did not help, and he was unable to find any position that was comfortable. What he didn’t know was that his old spinal fusion hardware had broken in his fall, and a bone chip had lodged into a nerve in his back – what this Colorado native did know was that he was in the worst pain he had ever experienced.  After living on four different submarines during his Navy career, riding motorcycles, and flying airplanes, Robert was now “paying the price for living life on the edge.” 

Upon meeting Dr. Aguwa, Robert felt immediately comfortable – his humor and relaxed manner added some much-needed levity to Robert’s serious situation, and his professionalism made Robert feel at ease. Dr. Aguwa took the time to explain the problem, the diagnosis and the surgery to Robert and his wife, Marcia. Robert underwent a 7-hour, revision lumbar fusion surgery in May and was relieved to be pain free when he woke up. Dr. Aguwa appeared in Robert’s room at 6:00 am in a Princeton Tigers t-shirt and jeans, he spoke at length with Robert about how he was feeling before he mentioned his wife was in labor with their first child on another floor in the same hospital! Robert and Marcia felt it was a demonstration of the dedication Dr. Aguwa has to his patients that he would check on Robert before his son was born.

After 18 years in the Navy and 26 years as a Senior Regional Support Engineer for IBM, this retired 69-year-old is anxious to get back to traveling. He and Marcia usually put 30,000+ miles on their RV each year, so they are looking forward to a trip to Arizona in February. And Robert is on his eighth Harley in 51 years, this one is a trike, so it’s safer, and he recently took it to Sturgis. He is back at the gym three times a week and has resumed his walks and hikes with Marcia. Robert “cannot say enough” about Dr. Aguwa, he says his experience with Dr. Aguwa was "the best experience with the medical community I have had in my life.” He and Marcia have even been able to see pictures of Dr. Aguwa’s son in the baby onesie they bought him.

All of us at Denver Spine Surgeons wish you a happy and  healthy holiday season!

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