How To Treat Back Injuries This Winter Season
Winter is upon us which means endless darkness, cold mornings and lots of snow. New York is unforgiving in it’s winter weather and we are the unfortunate victims. When we get a snow storm, it means that a person is left to deal with the icy aftermath, which generally involves shoveling heavy, wet snow. Unfortunately, our bodies are the ones that end up paying the price.
But why is it that we experience so many injuries doing this one specific task?
Well think of this:
An article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine made an important note that snow shoveling is generally not a year-round activity, and snowfall levels are unpredictable; therefore, it is difficult to prepare physically for snow shoveling. The cardiovascular demands of snow shoveling are increased by the freezing temperatures. Also, the design of most shovels are not meant to be ergonomic but instead efficient. This means that shovels often have heavy, metal buckets and short, straight handles.
So how should you protect your back this winter?
- Stretch before you head outside to shovel.
- Purchase a shovel with a curved handle that isn’t too short, making you hunch over or too long leaving more weight at the end. Also, make sure the bucket is lightweight and plastic.
- Scoop smaller loads of snow, and push the snow when possible.
- Bend your knees and lift with your legs, rather than with your spine or waist.
- Take frequent breaks and warm up inside.
- If you already have back problems, get a friend or a professional to shovel for you.
- Wear shoes with good traction to prevent slips and falls.
- During the actual lifting portion of shoveling, engage your core.
- ie: tighten your abs but don’t hold your breath
What should you do if you end up hurting your back shoveling?
- Follow the R.I.C.E method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation immediately after the injury.
- Avoid strenuous activity and take an anti-inflammatory if needed.
- Try some of these moves:
- Spine Twist: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your arms out to either side in a “T” position. Lift your knees together before slowly bringing both knees to the left side as you turn your head and gaze to the right. Count five deep breaths in this position before switching to the other side.
- Cat Camel: Begin on all fours. Arch your back towards the ceiling and hold. Then arch your back towards the ground and hold. Hold each stretch for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times.
- Single Knee to Chest: Lie down on your back with one knee bent, and one leg straight. Place your hands behind the bent leg and pull towards your chest until a light stretch is felt down the back of the leg. Hold for 60 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat 3 times for each leg.
- Pelvic Tilt: Lie down flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Tighten abdominal muscles, and press your shoulders and small of your back to the floor. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds and repeat 15 times. You can choose to either have your arms resting by your sides or behind your head.
- If you’re still not feeling better within the next 48 hours, try a non-invasive method like physical therapy (a prescription isn’t immediately needed) for some hands-on manual massage or consult with a doctor.
If you are experiencing back pain, give us a call at one of our three convenient locations for a screening to assess what is going on. We will help you become fully prepared to battle the winter season!