Unfortunately, cold weather and back injuries often go hand in hand. This is because colder temperatures cause muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back to tighten, making injuries from activity more likely. Winter also means snow and ice, which can lead to back problems from shoveling improperly or even slipping and falling on an icy surface. Here are some precautions you can take to reduce your chances of a back injury this winter.
Keep warm. The warmer you can keep your body, the less your back muscles and tendons will stiffen up and lead to a back injury. If you’ll be spending a significant amount of time outside when it’s cold — whether you’re skiing or watching a sporting event — consider bringing a heating pack or pad along to stay warm.
Shovel smart. Use an ergonomic shovel, if possible, to reduce the stress you put on your back when shoveling. Do some stretching to warm up and get your muscles moving before you shovel, just as you would with any other exercise. When you do shovel, bend at your knees to lift and avoid quick, twisting motions. Take your time and don’t try to lift too much snow at once. Taking a one-to-two-minute break every 10–15 minutes is recommended.
Keep your eyes open for ice. It sounds like simple advice, but one important way to avoid back injury in the winter is to avoid slipping and falling on ice. Wearing shoes with rubber soles and good traction will help, but there’s really no replacement for being vigilant and watching out for icy surfaces in your path.
Stay active. While it can be difficult to get up and exercise when the temperatures are below freezing, doing so will help keep your back muscles strong and limber, which will make you less likely to develop back injuries. Indoor exercises, such as yoga, aerobics or swimming, are a great way to keep active while still keeping warm.