Winter Spine Health

It’s the classic phenomenon: Winter ice, snow, and shoveling cause a hefty rise in back and spine pain and injury. And if any winter could test the validity of this phenomenon, it is certainly the winter of 2014, thus far.

There is no avoiding the risks of winter, but if you follow some basic rules, you can do a lot toward having a safer season. Here are some tips:

We all need to dig out. When you do pick up the shovel, remember to take to your task conservatively. Particularly if you are not used to shoveling, and you are not in shape, take it easy. Break up your work into 10 or 15-minute increments. Rest and assess the condition of your back for any suspicious soreness or other warning signs. When you do shovel, warm up first with basic movement and stretching. When you bend down to shovel, take small (not heavy) amounts of snow and toss or push heavy snow away. In all cases, do not twist your body to empty the shovel.

When walking on snow or ice, particularly if balance is an issue for you, watch where you step and take smaller steps. Also, wear appropriate footwear—even for short distances—as hidden ice can be a risk. When in doubt, grab a hold of any railing or even seek assistance.

Prevention is the Best Medicine: Pay close attention to your core—your abdominal and back muscles. Stretch and strengthen on a regular basis. This is important for tasks such as shoveling (and don’t forget sports and fitness—where a strong core is vital). In addition, a strong core helps avoid problems caused by even everyday activities. If you have spine or back vulnerability, sometimes even simple tasks like lifting a bag or bending over to pick something off the floor can cause sudden pain or injury issues.

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