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Save Your Back When Shoveling Snow

Improve Your Snow Shoveling Mechanics to Avoid Injury

‘Tis the season for hot cocoa, warm fires, and lots of snow. With snow comes shoveling, and unfortunately with shoveling comes injury. It is estimated that there are over 11,000 hospital visits each year due to injuries while shoveling snow. This number does not even include the thousands of people that see their primary care doctor with the onset of an injury. Many of these medical visits involve the low back including complaints of pain with movement, leg numbness, and the inability to maintain the proper posture. Lumbar injuries while shoveling are often due to the combination of repeated flexion and rotation of the spine. Adding the load of snow and having poor spine stabilization during the lift results in overload on the structures of the lumbar spine and resultant injury. Here are three exercises you can use to improve your shoveling mechanics in order to spend more time sipping cocoa by the fire, and less time in a physician’s waiting room.

  1. Hip Hinge – a proper movement pattern to bend forward and push snow involves flexion at the hips and knees, while maintaining a more neutral spine.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Using a broom stick, golf club, or wooden dowel, place the stock along your lumbar spine.
  • The stick should come in contact with the back of your head, mid-thoracic spine (between your shoulder blades), and at the sacrum/mid-buttock.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, hinge your hips by driving your buttock backwards, while maintaining the three points of contact throughout the movement.
  • Perform ten repetitions

Common mistakes: squatting versus hinging – try and minimize knee bend. Your buttock should move backwards, not down.

Losing contact with the stick – if you notice the stick is leaving the sacrum the spine is flexing. Slow down the movement and move only as far as you can with contact.

  1. Isometric Hip Bridge – once you have properly bent forward to push and load the snow, using the buttock and hamstring muscles to lift the snow will decrease strain of muscles of the lower back.
  • Start lying on your back, knees bent, and hands raised straight in the air.
  • Push through your heels driving your hips upwards, hold for 5-10 seconds, and return. Repeat this movement 10 times.
  • If you find that you feel this more in the low back than the legs or buttocks, try squeezing a pillow at your knees during the lift.
  1. Rotational Step – now that you have properly bent to load the snow, and used the proper muscles to lift it, increasing rotation at the hips to move the snow versus rotating through the lumbar spine will reduce torsional strain on the vertebral discs and spinal stabilizers.
  • Begin by standing in an athletic stance with your feet shoulder width apart and slight bend in your knees.
  • Keeping one foot in place, open up through your hips by stepping to the side and backwards. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the feet.
  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement, being mindful not to bend forward or rotate through the spine.
  • Perform 10 repetitions to each side.

See video demonstration of these exercises: here

Sean Duffey, DPT

Clinic Director, Ivy Rehab, Ortonville

That pain in your arm or hand could be coming from somewhere else.  Read Mike O’Hara’s article, Changing Locations to find out more.  Jeff Tirrell gives nutrition tips and Mike discusses the benefits of using an agility ladder.

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Stay independent longer by increasing your stair climbing capacity.  Mike O’Hara shows you how in his article, “Keep Climbing”.  Mike also discusses standing desks and the many benefits of standing while working.  Jeff Tirrell explains the effect of exercise on appetite.

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Our June issue brings information on preventing neck pain by strengthening your neck.  Mike O’Hara describes and demonstrates in a video exercises that will help strengthen the muscles of your neck.  In another article, Mike tells how grip strength can be a predictor of early death in some patients.  Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on performance based training.

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100 Steps Per Minute

Step Cadence and Fitness

Exercise researchers have been studying gait cadence for years.  A cadence of 80 steps a minute is a stroll.  100 steps a minute is considered a brisk walk.  At 130-140 steps a minute, you move into jog or slow run.  Recent high tech evaluations of gait cadence has been able to predict the onset of dementia in older people.  For many people, walking is their primary form of exercise.  Gretchen Reynolds has written an excellent *article on the walking cadence that produces optimal health benefits.

A compilation of many studies has found that 100 steps per minute is the sweet spot for walkers under the age of sixty.  The data for older walkers has yet to be fully evaluated, but it appears a slightly slower cadence is a good goal.

I like evaluations of performance.  Evaluations tell you if you are getting better or getting worse.  The human body is in a constant state of adaptation and never stays the same.  Keep track of your cadence by counting your steps for twenty seconds and then multiplying by four.  Use that information to track your fitness level.  Ideally it should get easier to walk, at faster pace over a greater period of time.

15 x 4 = 60 Pokey Joe.

20 x 4 = 80 Still too slow.

25 x 4 = 100 Good job.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

*Walk Briskly for Your Health.  About 100 Steps a Minute, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, June 27, 2018

View: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/well/walk-health-exercise-steps.html

In our May issue, Mike O’Hara discusses the importance of walking.  If you have pain or difficulty with walking, there are things that help.  Mike demonstrates some exercises to get you ready.  Be sure to read Jeff Tirrell’s article on squatting, and read about Afterburn–a new class at Fenton Fitness that uses heart rate monitors while training.

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Movement You Should Master

Step Ups

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up and down off the floor is the Step Up.

Step Ups

The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed.  Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading.  Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level.  Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.  Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders.  The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall.  Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.

Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions.  Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.

1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)

2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

PDFThe August Newsletter includes an article by Mike O’Hara, PT on training the muscles of the torso.  Included are exercises for training with video demonstration.  Also by Mike is an article on training to prevent Achille’s tendon injury–the most injured tendon among recreational runners.  Be sure to check out the Fenton Fitness Love Your Jean Challenge.

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