Jane Mary Harrington knew she was in for a long bout of shoveling Saturday when she found her car on P Street under a 7-foot snow drift.
“I mean, c’mon, 7 feet,” said Harrington. “That’s ridiculous. Then it took me 45 minutes just to dig out a spot to stand in, to position myself next to my car.”
On Monday, she was feeling the pain. “Yes, I’m sore,’’ she said. “But honestly, it could have been worse. It would have taken me a lot longer than five hours if there hadn’t been four neighbors helping me.”
Days after a ferocious nor’easter dumped more than 2 feet of snow on the area, we are the walking wounded: wincing from back pain, sore abs, and biceps fatigued from lifting and throwing shovelsful of snow.
They are common complaints after big storms, said
Dr. Scott Rosner of Boston Chiropractic Associates, as people awaken a day or two after shoveling feeling as if they have been hit by a concrete truck.
“People shovel, and then they hurt,” Rosner said. “And for some reason, no one ever thinks in the moment that it’s going to really impact them.”
Like clockwork, Rosner got calls Monday morning from new, would-be patients seeking treatment for their shoveling-related aches and pains.
“Lower back pain is always the biggest complaint and was with our new patients today,” he said. “I’d say after lower back pain, the order of complaint is upper back pain, then leg pain and arm pain.”
While many local residents are feeling sore in the storm’s aftermath, medical professionals said that not all shoveling-related visits they have received have been minor.
“We’ve had exceptionally high volume over the past 2½ days,” said Dr. Jason Tracy, chief of emergency medicine at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth. “And directly related to snow blowing and shoveling, we have seen a high number of cases, from overexertion, to slip and fall, to back injuries. With the overexertion, there have been a great many cases of chest pain and even heart attacks.”
In Webster, a 60-year-old Worcester firefighter suffered a heart attack while using his snowblower in the wake of the storm. Patrick E. Germain died Saturday trying to clear the snow from his driveway.
At Gary Drug Co. on Beacon Hill, manager Eileen Fitzpatrick said Advil and Motrin have been flying off the shelves as the snow-weary seek pain relief.
“We’ve had a steady flow of people in here looking for those, as steady a flow as you can have, considering how hard it is still to get around,” said Fitzpatrick.
Robert Skenderian, whose family has owned Skenderian Apothecary in Harvard Square for 50 years, says he empathizes with customers who have come into his store seeking pain relief. “I’m hurting; no kidding,” Skenderian said. “Shoveling is for the birds.”
He said it made sense that the number of shoppers looking for pain relievers was growing steadily as the day wore on Monday because it usually takes a day or two after shoveling stops before the pain sets in.
“And when they come, it’ll be for the same two things they always ask for after snow, whether it’s 6 inches or 2 feet: back braces and ibuprofen or Tylenol,” Skenderian said.
When Sean Sears, senior pastor of Grace Church in Stoughton, broke out his new snowblower Saturday, he thought it would be a quick job and he would be back inside shortly. Several hours later, though, Sears, 43, was still going as he began helping his neighbors clear their driveways, too.
Sears said he and his 17-year-old son, Garrett, were feeling pain in their backs and forearms Monday afternoon, but generally, “it’s not that bad.” Still, he and the family were taking it easy.
“Today, we are watching movies, reading, and playing around the house with the kids,” Sears said. “No chiropractor and, honestly, I’m not that sore today. I did sleep pretty hard the last two nights, though.”
So after decades of doling out medication to others, what does Skenderian recommend most? “I can tell you I treat myself with a beer, preferably a cold one,” he said. “But if that doesn’t work for you, then apply heat, moist heat to the sore areas. Hot showers and baths are great. Only use cold packs if you slipped and have a bad bruise or some other trauma.”
And his best advice for avoiding pain from shoveling?
“Get someone else to do it,” Skenderian said.James Burnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JamesBurnett.