Can Cold Weather Hurt Your Lower Back?

As the temperature drops, aches and pains become a frequent occurrence. Without proper warm up and stretching, activities like snow shoveling and even prolonged standing can trigger low back pain, knee pain and other injuries.

It is important to remember that blood flow to muscles and joints decreases as a direct result of reduced activity. In addition, the abundance of food during the holidays results in weight gain for most individuals. Therefore, it is crucial to stay active, keep the blood circulation going, and burn extra calories during winter.

Treatment of injuries is a no-brainer, but did you know that injury prevention is also crucial, especially during winter?

Injury Prevention 101 for Winter

If you are going to be lifting and moving things, shoveling snow or engaging in other forms of exercise, make sure to warm up and stretch before you begin. Start slowly and maintain the right posture as you increase the intensity of exercise over 10 to15 minutes. Take short breaks and give your muscles and joints a chance to adjust to the task. Use your knees rather than your lower back to lift heavy objects, avoid twisting movements and breathe normally at all times.

Hold heavy objects close to the body to reduce strain on the lumbar spine. The feet should be kept wide apart to increase the base of support, and the knees must be slightly bent. Use your entire body to move objects rather than twisting your back. If you are shoveling snow, you must avoid twisting motions of the lower back such as throwing the snow over the shoulder behind you.

With the right combination of breathing, warm up and the correct technique, you can reduce the probability of injury significantly. If you have aches and pains that get worse during the winter, it may be time to see a physical therapist. Your therapist will assess your current activity levels and functional limitations and discuss your short term and long term goals. All this information will be used to devise a plan of action to treat the underlying cause of pain as quickly as possible.

It is important to maintain strength and stability in the muscles of the torso and lower back, especially during the winter. As the snow melts to ice, the risk of slips and falls increases. Maintaining and improving balance and stability, especially for seniors, is an important part of physical therapy and wellness.

Winter is associated with a surge in the number of persons visiting the emergency room for snow shoveling and fall-related injuries, which is why prevention is so important. Some simple prevention techniques to maintain posture, improve balance and prevent injuries, combined with good old fashioned common sense, will help you enjoy a healthy, happy winter season.

Editor’s Note: Stephanie Dunker co-owns Urbana’s Sage Orthopedic Physical Therapy with her husband Dr. Jeremy Dunker. The Dunkers write Vital Signs on a bi-monthly basis for The Town Courier. Content for this column was condensed from Sage Orthopedic’s newsletter.

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