Total Therapy Blog
Protecting Your Back Against Winter’s Bite
With rainy skies and shorter days, winter has officially arrived in Vancouver. Winter time in Vancouver is a time of festivities, family gatherings, and trips to the local mountains, but it’s also a time of slips, falls, overexertion, and aching joints. This season, don’t let winter take a bite out of your holiday enjoyment. A few simple steps can help you protect your back against winter’s most common challenges.
Deck the halls – carefully.
Did you know that a large number of injuries in the winter months have to do with Christmas decorating? Falls off ladders, trips caused by poorly placed extension cords, and slips due to decoration debris are common causes of emergency room visits. The last thing anyone wants during their winter holidays is to deal with an aching tailbone from having fallen off a ladder putting up lights. Follow these simple tips to avoid the most common injury causes:
– Use a spotter. If you’re using a ladder, have someone stabilize the ladder below you.
– Be choosy about the conditions. Frost and poor visibility conditions can make surfaces slippery and difficult to navigate. Keep your exterior decorating to daylight hours, and avoid venturing up to high places in frost, rain, or snow conditions.
– Be smart with cord placement. Reduce your tripping risk by minimizing your use of extension cords. If you have to use one, choose the closest outlet to your device to minimize the length of the cord needed. You can also try taping excess cord down to the floor, or around the perimeter of the room against the baseboards to keep loose ends away from unwary feet.
– Clean-up clutter. Keep high traffic areas clear of boxes and bulky decorations. Consider moving non-seasonal furniture or decorations into storage for the holidays to free up space.
Although we certainly don’t struggle with snow the same way our more eastern neighbours do, snow does fall in the Metro Vancouver area on occasion. If you are breaking out the snow shovel, remember to use proper form to protect your back.
– Brace your core. Tighten your stomach as if you were about to laugh – this global activation of your trunk muscles will help protect your spine.
– Bend at the hips and knees – NOT your back.
– Avoid twisting through your spine. If you need to pivot, move your feet.
– When you shovel, start with smaller loads first. This will help you ‘warm-up’, and avoid overexerting yourself.
Hefting around heavy shopping bags can do a number on your back. To avoid becoming a door crasher casualty, try these easy tips:
– Carry evenly. If you carry with one hand, you’re exposing your spine to torque AND compressive forces, increasing the risk of muscle and soft-tissue injury. By dividing the load evenly between both hands, you eliminate torque, reduce muscle strain, and make it easier to maintain a neutral, upright posture to protect your back.
– Break up your trips. For many shoppers, the holiday season means marathon shopping trips; however, most of us are not used to spending hours on our feet. This sets us up for potential problems like backaches, tight shoulders, and sore necks. Do your body a favour, and break your shopping trips up into smaller chunks of time if you can, interspersed with rest breaks.
When the weather turns sour, it’s tempting to hide indoors. Statistically speaking, Canadians are the least active during the winter months, with activity increasing in the summer. However, staying active and fit is your best insurance against back problems. Get out for walks, hit the gym, go for a swim, or do a few simple exercises at home to ward off back issues. Check out our “All About Core – Myths Busted and Training Tips” article for exercise ideas.
If you’re hurting, get help.
It’s easy to ignore aches and pains during the holiday bustle. Keep in mind, though, the longer you put off taking care of yourself, the longer it’s going to take when you finally do get around to it. Be proactive! If you’re having problems, get in to see your physiotherapist, chiropractor, or health care practitioner. The sooner you address it, the faster it will go away!
Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday!
– The Total Therapy Team