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Yep, you read that correct. Not a lower back injury but a neck injury. The mechanism is the same but I wanted to address neck pain in this article. The fact of the matter is: you can strain any muscle or joint doing just about any activity.

In this example a patient of ours was shoveling snow and he turned his head while lifting the shovel to toss some snow off to the side. He mentioned he was careful with his back - bending his knees, using his thigh as a fulcrum, not picking up too heavy of a load, etc. But when he turned his head to the right he immediately felt his muscles on the right side of his neck, from the back and side of the head to the upper back, seize up. He said it felt like a major spasm or cramp.

We've seen this many times before, this same thing can happen in the lower back, or leg as well. People sometimes may describe it as a "Charlie horse" sensation. So why can this happen doing an activity you wouldn't think would cause it?

The answer is this: Sometimes a muscle or a joint is on the verge of getting irritated. Let's say for example the night before the snow storm you were on the computer for hours; your neck was tight after but it seemed to go away. Then you went to bed and got up early to shovel. Half asleep, while everyone was still in bed, you put your jacket and hat and gloves on, braved the cold, and started shoveling.

From the above example you can see how the shoveler's neck was probably still irritated from the night before (it may have gotten worse while sleeping too), then without getting the muscles warmed up a bit (taking a shower, or stretching a bit would have made a huge difference), or even drinking some water (this helps hydrate the body obviously, in this case muscles and joints, helping to prevent injury). In this case the individual probably shocks the body a bit, going out in the cold and starts to do a good amount of physical activity.

Now I'm not saying doing this nor something similar will cause a neck or back injury, and I know that most of us have been guilty of it in the past. However if one makes a habit of doing these kinds of things often you can and will eventually hurt yourself. I'm going to give you some tips you can use to heal the neck once you do strain it, but keep in mind the real goal is to prevent it from happening. Believe me, I've seen people that have strained it so bad or have strained and restrained over and over, that their neck is to the point where it doesn't heal so easy or fast