Shoveling your way to the chiropractor

David Weissman

As York County residents finish removing snow from their cars and driveways, local chiropractors are busy fixing the problems that process is causing.

Dr. Gregory Sommer, owner of Community Chiropractic in Manchester Township, said he's definitely been getting a lot of phone calls from patients who strained their lower backs shoveling out snow. Most of the calls have come from existing patients, but he's also scheduled appointments for a few new patients, he said.

Sommer and other local chiropractors said the combination of repetitive activity, the awkward lifting and twisting motion, heavy weight on the end of the shovel and people who aren't used to strenuous physical activity is a recipe for disaster.

Dr. Gregory Sommer of Community Chiropractic does an adjustment on Jeff Smith of Manchester, Wednesday January 27, 2016. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

Major snowstorms leading to back injuries seems to be unavoidable, according to Dr. Jim Sheaffer of Sheaffer Family Chiropractic in Manchester Township.

"You can have proper lifting form for a while, but a lot of people have jobs that lead to sedentary lifestyles, and they fail to use these different parts of their bodies," Sheaffer said.

The biggest mistake people make when shoveling snow is going too fast and having too much snow in each scoop, Sommer said. He advises patients to be cautious of their pace, take frequent breaks and stay properly hydrated.

Ralph Thompson, 45, spent three or four hours straight on Sunday shoveling out the driveway of his Loganville home, and the longtime patient at East York Chiropractic Center in Springettsbury Township has been paying for it this week.

"(My lower back) was feeling a little sore as I was shoveling, but I'd taken some Aleve earlier in anticipation of the pain," Thompson said. "A couple hours after I came in, I started feeling really stiff and had trouble getting around."

He visited his chiropractor, Dr. Richard Green, on Monday and felt better after an adjustment, but he was back in Wednesday morning after shoveling out a track for his daughter, whose school was canceled, to sled down.

"I told (my daughter), 'I'm sorry, but I'm done building courses for the rest of the winter,'" Thompson said, laughing. "I also told my wife we need to get a snow blower."

Green, who's been a chiropractor in York for 30 years, said he hasn't fielded many calls from new patients related to the storm yet, but he's expecting an influx in activity next week.

"People think (the pain) will just go away," Green said. "Once they realize it's not, they give me a call."

In addition to shoveling, snowstorms can lead to back, shoulder and neck issues due to slipping on ice, car accidents, heavy snow blowers and emotional stress, according to local chiropractors.

"People experience a lot of emotional stress from being stuck and missing work," Sheaffer said. "That affects people's nervous systems and leads to injuries."

Several chiropractors were among those missing work, or missing out on work, because of the storm.

Dr. Gary Harcourt, of Harcourt Chiropractic Office in West York, said operations have been slowed with people canceling appointments because they're unable to make it into the office. He was also forced to close on Monday because his parking lot hadn't been cleared out yet.

Sommer, who was able to open his office on Monday, said he's had to deal with some cancellations so far, but last year was worse due to the continuous snowfall and freezing rain.

The snow-related injuries have more than made up for the cancellations for Sommer, who said he's scheduled about 25 to 30 additional appointments compared to his average week of work.

—Reach David Weissman at