Snow Shoveling Tips for a Safe Winter

Ah, winter. The thrill of sledding, the joy of skating … and the dread of shoveling.

Snow shoveling is one of the most common causes of back injuries during the winter season. That said, it is possible to stay pain-free while making your property pedestrian friendly.

Below, are six snow shoveling tips that will keep you safe as you face-off against your powdery nemesis:

1) Warm Up

It may seem a little odd since warming up is typically associated with sports and exercise, but shoveling (as you well know) is a serious strain on the body. In fact, cold, tight muscles are more susceptible to injury than warmed-up muscles.

To warm up and get the blood circulating, take a short walk or perform any kind of full-body movement. Also, do some gentle stretching to loosen up the hamstrings and muscles in the low back.

2) Pick the Right Tool to Help You Succeed

An ergonomic snow shovel is an ideal way to keep some of the strain of that heavy snow at bay. Choose a shovel that has a curved or adjustable handle and is made of a lightweight material. By using this type of shovel, the amount of bending you do and the weight of the snow you’re shoveling can be kept to a minimum.

3) Work Smart, Not Hard

First, always try to push as much snow as you can off to the side. Then, when actual shoveling becomes necessary, follow these tips:

  • Bend at the hips (not the back) and push your chest out. Then, bend your knees and lift the shovel with your leg muscles while keeping your back straight
  • Keep the load light and don’t attempt to lift a shovelful that’s too much for you
  • If you do have a large shovelful, grab the shovel by the base of the handle—or as far down as comfortably possible—while the other hand remains on the handle
  • Avoid twisting your back to move the snow and turn around to face the direction you want the snow to go
  • Don’t extend your arms to throw snow; keep the load as close to your body and your center of gravity as possible

4) Remember Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Shoveling smaller amounts over a longer period of time drastically reduces the amount of strain shoveling has on the body. If possible, remove the snow over the course of a few days rather than plowing through it in a few hours.

Additionally, if the snow is deep, remove a few inches off of the top at a time instead of attempting the full depth at once. It is also recommended that you take a 10- to 15-minute break when you start to feel worn down.

5) Have Traction to Avoid Ending Up in Traction

Snow and ice can make shoveling a slippery hazard, resulting in a fall. Wear shoes or boots with good tread and spread sand, rock salt or kitty litter to increase traction and reduce the risk of slipping.

6) Don’t Shovel

Easier said than done. However, using a snow blower can significantly reduce strain on the back (as long as you use your leg muscles to push).

By keeping these handy tips in mind, you can steer clear of pain and strain during cold, snowy months.

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Adhesive capsulitis, a common cause of what is known to most people as frozen shoulder, is a condition that occurs when the capsule that surrounds the ball joint in the shoulder begins to form scar tissue. This scar tissue causes a drastic decrease in mobility (hence the “frozen” aspect), as well as severe pain. Not every frozen shoulder is Adhesive Capsulitis.

What Causes Frozen Shoulder?

It is often unknown what causes frozen shoulder to take hold, but there are several factors that can play a part in the likelihood of a person being diagnosed.

Those factors include:

  • Age and gender- Frozen shoulder typically affects patients between the ages of 40 to 60 years old. It is much more common in women than men.
  • Endocrine disorders- Patients with diabetes are at a particular risk for developing frozen shoulder, but other endocrine abnormalities can also lead to the development of this condition, such as thyroid problems.
  • Shoulder trauma or surgery complications- Patients with a shoulder injury or shoulder surgery can develop a frozen shoulder joint. The risk is even higher when the injury or surgery is followed by prolonged joint immobilization.This is usually not the same as Adhesive Capsulitis, but may be treated in a similar way.
  • Other systemic conditions- Pre-existing conditions like heart disease and Parkinson’s disease have been known to be a factor for people who suffer from frozen shoulder.

What Are the Treatment Options for Frozen Shoulder?

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), 90 percent of patients with frozen shoulder improved range of motion and had a decrease in pain due to light and consistent physical therapy.

Exercises that might be incorporated into a physical therapy treatment plan include:

  • External rotation
  • Stand in a doorway, then bend affected arm 90 degrees in order to reach the doorjamb. Keep hand in place while rotating the body. Hold for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat
  • Forward flexion
  • Lie on back with legs straight. Use unaffected arm to lift affected arm overhead until there’s a gentle stretch. Hold for 15 seconds and slowly lower to start position. Relax and repeat
  • Crossover arm stretch
  • Gently pull one arm across chest just below chin as far as possible without causing pain. Hold for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat

In addition to physical therapy and exercise, a physician might prescribe the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Drugs like Aspirin® and Ibuprofen® can temporarily reduce pain and swelling
  • Steroid injections
  • Cortisone injections are injected directly into the shoulder joint to work as a powerful anti-inflammatory

If symptoms related to frozen shoulder are not relieved through conservative treatment options, then surgery might be recommended, although this is not very common

There are two different procedures that are most commonly used in treating frozen shoulder:

1. Manipulation under anesthesia

During this procedure, the patient is put to sleep, and the shoulder is moved in ways that can stretch and tear the stiff adhesions. This will allow relief from the tension that the adhesions cause and can increase range of motion.

2. Shoulder arthroscopy

In this procedure, a doctor cuts through tight portions of the shoulder capsule. This is done by inserting pencil-sized instruments through very small incisions around the affected area. This method breaks up scarring tissue and allows for increased range of motion and eventual pain relief after recovery.

Sometimes, the two procedures are performed in tandem in order to achieve the best possible results.

What Is the Window of Recovery After a Procedure?

The best possible results are achieved by patients who thoroughly follow their rehabilitation plan. Recovery times vary depending on the severity of a patient’s frozen shoulder, ranging typically from six weeks to nine months.

If the rehabilitation process is followed thoroughly, outcomes are usually very positive. The range of motion is restored, and pain generally becomes non-existent.

 

Winter is Coming, but Painful Injuries Don’t Have to Come with It

With the winter season comes a bevy of activities to get the blood flowing. Skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and even just having a snowball fight are all unique to the colder months. With those activities can also come painful injuries, many of which can be prevented by taking necessary precautions and preparations.

Each year, thousands of people are injured by the most common winter activities, with numbers growing on an annual basis. Typically, winter sports injuries mostly consist of injuries such as strains, sprains, hyperextensions, dislocations and fractures. In 2015 there were:

  • 88,000 injuries from skiing
  • 61,000 injuries from snowboarding
  • 50,000 injuries from ice skating
  • 47,000 injuries from sledding, tobogganing and snow tubing

With such a large number of injuries, it’s important to consider ways of preparing and preventing misfortune from happening during the only time of year in which these modes of having fun are available.

Many people find that the injuries they experience occur towards the end of the day. One last run down the slopes or one more turn of the rink can often result in overexerting the body. In addition, muscles tend to tighten quicker in the cold, and by overworking and/or not stretching or staying in good shape, injury is far more likely. There are a variety of ways to prevent injuries that result from activity in the cold:

  • Avoid activity when experiencing pain or exhaustionRest is essential to healing, and if a person is experiencing soreness or minor injury, it’s crucial to let the body recover.
  • Be sure all equipment is functioning properly (i.e. helmets, pads, ski boots etc.)Malfunctioning equipment can lead to very serious injury. Be sure to double-check any equipment being used before starting an activity.
  • Drink water and stay hydrated before, during and after activityStaying hydrated is always important, but doing so while being active is essential. Cold weather can often cause people to not consider drinking water, but it is just as vital during winter as during exercise in any other season. 
  • Keep exercising throughout the year to maintain good physical healthBy keeping the body conditioned, colder weather, along with tighter muscles and stress on joints, won’t be as likely to cause injuries.
  • Stay aware of weather conditions and severe coldKnowing upcoming weather patterns is important during the winter, as snow/ice storms can lead to hypothermia and extreme frostbite.
  • Take ski or snowboard lessons if necessary, as proper form and safety can be the difference in preventing injury while on the slopes.By taking lessons from a trained instructor, you can gain better understanding of form and the correct way of going about activities on the slopes and/or the mountains. Knowing proper form significantly reduces the chances of injury.
  • Wear layered clothing; dressing for warmth should include a heavy top layer with progressively lighter layers underneath.By dressing in layers, you have the ability to avoid becoming overheated when weather and activity increases body heat, and to also bundle up when temperatures get cooler.
  • Warm up before participating in activities by stretching and doing light exercise.By stretching and doing some light exercise before winter sports, it’s far less likely that you will experience a sprain, strain or tear. When the muscles become more tense in response to colder conditions, it’s very important to keep blood flow circulating in order to prevent injury.

By being aware of ways in which you can prevent injury from winter sports, it can be easy to enjoy all that the season has to offer. Taking just a few minutes to prepare and make sure proper precautions are in place is the best way to stay healthy, and avoid having to take time off from the countless activities that the season has to offer.

5 Myths About Chronic Pain—Busted

Chronic pain is typically defined as pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks. It can even last for months at a time. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this type of pain is the most common cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and—along with its subsequent treatments—is frequently misunderstood and shrouded in fiction versus fact.

Below, please take a look at the five chronic pain myths we have effectively debunked:

Myth: Pain is simply a part of the aging process.

Fact: Sometimes, that is true. There are some aches and pains that come from the wear and tear on the body as we age. The difference, however, is that chronic pain is generally constant whereas “growing pains” usually come and go.  

Myth: Patients with chronic pain need to just “tough it out.”

Fact: Choosing to ignore pain can have serious consequences. To start, pain is the body’s way of letting patients know that something is amiss and needs to be addressed. In addition, choosing to ignore the pain rather than seeing a healthcare professional may lead to unsafe and unhealthy self-medicating.    

Myth: Exercising while in pain can result in further injury.

Fact: While running a full marathon isn’t necessarily recommended, exercise such as physical therapy can play a vital role in successfully managing chronic pain. Keeping the body moving helps to improve blood circulation and keeps muscles, tendons and ligaments loose.

Myth: If there’s no “seeable” cause for the pain, it must be in the patient’s head.

Fact: Chronic pain is very real, but sometimes the exact cause of pain can remain unknown to physicians. That’s because pain is an extremely complex sensation that can be different for each patient.

Myth: Chronic pain due to complex conditions can only be fixed through surgical means.

Fact: Chronic pain that may be the result of an issue such as a spine condition do not necessarily require surgical intervention. Physical therapy, nerve blocks and joint injections are just some of the methods available for effectively managing chronic pain.

 

Chronic pain may come with a lot of misconceptions, but the bottom line is that patients do not have to live with this potentially debilitating condition. There are ways to effectively manage it and live a life free from pain.

 

At Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (NEOSM), our team of interventional pain management specialists offers a variety of surgical and non-surgical options to give patients relief from chronic back pain and other pain-related issues as part of our continuum of care. 

 For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.

NEOSM Collects for Cancer

Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (NEOSM) participated in a cancer awareness initiative on October 21, 2016. During this designated day, employees were permitted to dress down and wear something pink as long as they donated a minimum of $5.00.

NEOSM collected a grand total of $550, with all proceeds donated to the American Cancer Society in White Plains, NY.

November NEOSM Food Drive

Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (NEOSM) is proud to be hosting a food drive at all of our convenient locations. The drive will continue throughout the course of November with all donations going to People to People, Rockland County’s largest food pantry.

NEOSM is fully committed to helping friends and family in the community through this and other outreach programs. Click here for the complete list of requested items for those in need.

Come forward, and give back today!

5 Tips for Effectively Treating a Sprained Ankle

All it takes is that one step.

You’re stepping off a curb and not paying attention where your foot is landing. Or, maybe you’re deep in the throes of a game and you take a tumble, unaware that your foot has suddenly folded under you at an awkward angle as you tried to stay upright.

No matter the method, a sprained ankle is a common orthopedic injury that can affect anyone from the person taking a walk to the professional athlete.

What is a sprain, exactly?

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments that support and provide stability to the joint. When a sprain occurs, the ligaments are stretched too far, possibly even resulting in a partial or full tear. As a result, you may experience pain, swelling and bruising in the area.

The severity of your symptoms depends on the extent of the damage to the ligaments. If you have sprained your ankle, there are ways to get it back in shape if treatment is performed early.

Five Simple Tips to Care for a Sprained Ankle

1) Protect Your Injured Ankle

This seems simple, but most people don’t adhere to this step. Keep weight off of your ankle immediately following injury, and immobilize it with a splint or brace to prevent further injury.

2) Rest

Stay off of your feet as much as possible for the next couple of days following the injury. When resting, keep your ankle elevated to help reduce swelling.

3) Keep It on Ice

Keep swelling and pain at bay by icing your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day. (Note: Keeping ice on your ankle for more than 20 minutes could damage nerves.)

4) Wrap It Up

Keep the ankle lightly compressed with an elastic bandage when it isn’t being elevated. The wrapping should be snug, not tight. Wrapping too tightly can decrease blood circulation and slow the healing process.

5) Seek Professional Help

If a sprained ankle does not typically improve after a few days with the right self-treatment—there may be more damage than you realize. Seek the help of a physician to ensure there is not extensive damage. The doctor may recommend rehabilitation techniques to return full mobility, and provide balance and strength to your ankle.

Comprehensive Ankle Care 

At NEOSM, our physicians have years of experience in effectively treating all orthopedic conditions and injuries, including those of the foot and ankle. Our multidisciplinary approach to care ensures that patients receive the customized treatment they need to get moving again.

For more information on ankle injury or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact NEOSM today.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS): A Revolution in Care

Spine surgery is an ancient craft dating back at least 5,000 years. Its history begins with the Egyptian mummies and includes Hippocrates, often referred to as the “father of spine surgery.” In this long chronicle of spine surgery, the last few decades have seen extensive developments. The advent of tools for microscopic and endoscopic procedures have made minimally invasive surgery not only possible but remarkably effective with greatly improved surgical results, shorter hospital stays, reduced costs and fewer complications.

Dr. Chong K. Oh is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and spine surgery specialist with a background and special interest in minimally invasive procedures. He explains as follows,

Traditional spinal surgery is typically done through a midline open incision that spans the spinal levels that require treatment. It requires stripping of the paraspinal musculature for access to the bony anatomy and neural structures. Multilevel procedures require a longer incision and more soft tissue stripping because the spinal levels are stacked on top of each other.

Unlike other parts of the body that lend themselves more readily for treatment with small instruments and cameras (the knee or shoulder, for example), the spinal architecture does not typically allow for this kind of approach. As spinal surgeons, we are guided by the patient’s symptoms and imaging studies and plan for delicate and precise work in the anatomical areas that require our attention.

Minimally invasive spinal techniques have been made possible by technological advances made since the early 1990s. Advances in fluoroscopy (real-time X-rays) have greatly aided in the progress of the field. Smaller and better retractor systems allow the surgeon to use smaller incisions, as well as less stripping and pulling of the musculature for access to the spine. When instrumentation is required, newer implants have smaller footprints and are more friendly to the bony anatomy of the spine. In turn, these techniques translate into less bleeding and shorter hospital stays.

The general goal of minimally invasive spine surgery is to stabilize the vertebral bones and spinal joints, and/or relieve pressure which has resulted in pain and potential damage to the spinal nerves. Minimally invasive spine surgery is often applicable in conditions, such as degenerated or herniated discs, spinal instability, bone spurs, spine fractures and spinal stenosis.

Benefits of MISS include:

  • Decreased pain
  • Improved function
  • Less blood loss
  • Less need for pain medication
  • Less scarring
  • Quicker recovery from surgery
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Shorter surgical time
  • The possibility of local anesthesia for certain same-day procedures

The Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (SMISS) has put together some helpful questions to ask your surgeon if you are considering minimally invasive spine surgery:

  • What percent of your practice involves minimally invasive surgery?
  • How long have you been doing minimally invasive surgery?
  • How many minimally invasive surgery procedures have you performed in the last six months?
  • What training have you had in minimally invasive surgery?
  • Do you present your work on minimally invasive surgery in any scientific context (i.e., journal articles or meetings)?
  • Are you board certified by either the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgeons (abos.org) or the American Board of Neurological Surgery (www.abns.org)?*

Spine Specialists

At Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (NEOSM), we are prepared to address these and any other questions or concerns you may have. It is part of our mission to educate consumers as fully as possible. Contact us at any one of our 10 locations with inquiries regarding any and all spine issues.

*Nationally recognized board certification entities are listed with the American Board of Medical Specialties (www.abms.org). The ABOS and ABNS are currently the only recognized boards for spinal surgery.