February 19

Mainers find shoveling snow can be a real pain

Chiropractors and injury therapists see an uptick in business as Mainers develop aching joints and strained backs.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

This winter, Mainers are hurting.

click image to enlarge

Congress Street Variety night manager Stephen Brichetto clears the latest snowfall in front of the Portland store on Tuesday. The lower back is the body part most frequently injured while shoveling.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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With each winter storm, including the 7.6 inches of snow dumped Tuesday on Portland, more people are forced outside for the time-honored yet potentially injurious tradition of shoveling their driveways and sidewalks.

The effort has sent many to emergency rooms, chiropractors and other therapists for relief.

“You need to treat this like a sport,” said Dr. Caitlin Morrisroe, a chiropractor at Absolute Health Chiropractic in Portland, who said she owes about 25 percent of her workload during the winter to shoveling or snow-related ailments. “(We see) a lot of shoulder and back injuries,” she said.

Nationwide, 11,500 people seek emergency medical care each year for injuries related to snow shoveling, according to a 2011 study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital that examined 17 years’ worth of hospital admissions nationwide. The most frequently injured body part was the lower back, which accounted for 34 percent of snow-related injuries. Hands and arms are the second most likely body parts to be injured, according to the study’s authors.

The study said the most common diagnoses were soft tissue injuries, which accounted for 55 percent of the reported injuries. Lacerations came in at 16 percent and fractures at 7 percent. Twenty percent of injuries stemmed from slipping or falling.

Cardiac-related injuries made up 7 percent of the total number of cases and were the most serious, accounting for more than half of the hospitalizations and all of the 1,647 fatalities associated with shoveling snow.

Maine Medical Center in Portland said it does not track admissions based on whether they are snow-related, and Mercy Hospital officials said they didn’t know if that was a metric tracked by emergency room doctors.

Although it’s difficult to determine if this winter’s weather has brought a disproportionate amount of injuries, meteorologists are tracking considerably more snow than usual.

So far, 76.2 inches have fallen this winter in Portland, according to the National Weather Service – ample opportunity for snow shovelers to throw out their backs or hurt their biceps. And more snow is being forecast for Wednesday.

“There is no rest for the wicked,” said meteorologist Eric Sinsabaugh of the National Weather Service in Gray. “Another storm is on its way.”

Sinsabaugh said Portland and towns in southern Maine can expect to get another 1 to 3 inches of snow Wednesday, and possibly as much as 4 inches depending on how the storm tracks.

Tuesday’s snowstorm hit hard and fast, Sinsabaugh said. By 10 p.m. Tuesday, it had begun to move up the coast and away from southern Maine. But it left plenty of snow to shovel and plow.

Cumberland Center got 9 inches, and 7.3 inches fell in South Portland, 6.3 inches in Bridgton, 9.6 inches in Kennebunk and 5.9 inches in Hollis, according to the weather service.

Local police departments reported roads were greasy and slick, especially during the evening commute. At one point on Portland’s High Street, cars were unable to drive up the steep incline, causing a traffic jam.

“There is a lot of snow out there, but the (road) crews are doing the best they can,” Lt. Gary Hutcheson of the Portland Police Department said Tuesday night.

Hutcheson spent part of his shift driving around the city. He said most drivers appeared to have complied with the overnight parking ban. He observed that city streets were narrow and lined with snowbanks.

(Continued on page 2)

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