(Pinkston Press Service) – Winter is upon us and although the focus on health continues to be on staying Covid-safe, we cannot forget that this is also the time of year when the temperature of the Cold air can cause the muscles and ligaments that support your back and spine, as well as other parts of your body, such as the shoulders and knees, to contract and tighten. Back pain is among the most common reasons for hospitalization during the winter months and the holiday season, according to a study by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. And surely we would all like to avoid an unscheduled trip to the doctor or hospital, especially during these times.
People should be aware that the risk of injury or re-injury tends to increase in the winter. It is therefore important for everyone, but especially for those with a history of back and spine problems, to take precautions. As such, here is a short list of my easy-to-follow tips to help you keep your back healthy during the winter and prevent injury.
Stretch regularly. Warming up is not just for athletes! Having a regular stretching routine is important if you want to reduce your risk of injury, and even speed up recovery from an old one. Simple back stretches like the kid pose or the cat cow pose can add strength and flexibility to your spine.
Wear appropriate footwear. As with preparing your car’s tires, you should be careful about the footwear you wear if you plan to walk in snowy or icy terrain this winter. As well as making sure your shoes have a good fit (beware of buying online and try them on in store first, if possible) and have enough insulation to keep your toes warm, invest in a pair. of shoes or boots that have non-stick rubber soles and treads on the bottom. These should help you avoid slipping and falling, which could potentially injure your back. And when you get inside, take off your wet, snowy shoes and switch to dry, comfortable socks or slippers so you don’t risk slipping on the floor.
Be aware of your surroundings. If you plan to spend time outdoors, pay attention to the surfaces around you. Watch out for weather reports that announce dangerous conditions. An icy road or sidewalk may not be immediately visible, so it’s best to take small steps, not walk too fast, and avoid carrying bulky or heavy items like grocery bags. Use large, stationary objects around you, such as ramps, a tree, or a vehicle, to stabilize yourself if you feel at risk for a fall. Realize that snowfall can mask things that could trip you up, like rocks or steps, so keep a close eye on what’s directly in front of you.
Stay active. Winter brings with it the aftermath of the holiday season which, for some people, is characterized by decadent eating combined with plenty of sitting activities. For others, seasonal depression rears its ugly head, making even basic daily activities more difficult. While turkey, pies, and chocolate are tasty holiday staples, overeating can lead to unwanted weight gain, which in turn can increase the strain on a sensitive back. Make sure to set aside time between meals for light exercise and to keep your body flexible.
But also, don’t lie down too much! Many of us find ourselves engaging in physical labor once a year outdoors in the winter, whether that’s hanging Christmas lights and decorations, or shoveling snow. These odd jobs can be tricky because they can force our body to move in ways that it may not be used to. Shoveling snow, in particular, can put tremendous strain on your back with all of the flexing and lifting motions needed. It’s important to use proper technique and equipment whenever possible, and to give yourself plenty of time to take breaks and rest when engaging in such strenuous activity.
Always wear a seat belt. Hope this is one of the more obvious tips, but it’s worth mentioning! Almost a quarter of weather-related car crashes occur during the winter, and nearly 76,000 people are injured in crashes on snowy or muddy roads. Back pain or injuries are frequently reported even after low speed fender benders, mainly due to the fact that most of the time our body does not have the opportunity to prepare for the sudden impact. Having your seat belt properly fastened can minimize that unexpected movementâ¦ plus, you know, save your life.
By being deliberate and always keeping our bodily health in mind, we should all be able to enjoy winter safely. We should all be aware of the limitations of our bodies, but by observing this handful of tips you should be able to get through this fun winter season without pain or injury.