For all of those who have had to dig out of the snowstorms up north and in the mid-west, you know there can be problems when snow, ice and frigid weather blast into town. Winter recreational activities and chores can pose problems for the outdoor enthusiast whose body is not in condition. Winter sports like skating, skiing and sledding can cause painful muscle spasms, strains or tears if you’re not in shape. Even shoveling snow the wrong way, clambering awkwardly over snow banks, slipping on sidewalks and wearing the wrong kinds of clothing can all pose the potential for spasms, strains and sprains. Preparation for an outdoor activity, including conditioning the areas of the body that are most vulnerable, can help avoid injury and costly health care bills. Simply put, warming up is essential. Here’s some recommendations to help prevent injury:
Skiing – Squats are the best exercise to do to warm up for skiing. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, knees aligned over your feet. Slowly lower your buttocks as you bend your knees over your feet (but do not let your knees go past your toes to prevent knee injury). Stand up straight again. Perform 10 to 15 squats.
Skating – Lunges are the best exercise to warm up for skating. Take a moderately advanced step with one foot. Let your back knee come down to the floor while keeping your shoulders in position over your hips. Repeat the process with your other foot.
Sledding/tobogganing – Perform knee-to-chest stretches to fight compression injuries caused by repetitive bouncing over the snow. Either sitting or lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest and hold for up to 30 seconds.
Don’t forget cool-down stretching for all of these sports – At the bottom of the sledding hill, for instance, before trudging back up, do some more knees-to-chest stretches, or repetitive squatting movements to restore flexibility.
Shoveling snow can also wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system. The American Chiropractic Association suggests the following tips for exercise of the snow shoveling variety:
1. If you must shovel snow, be careful. Listen to weather forecasts so you can rise early and have time to shovel before work.
2. Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible.
3. Shoveling can strain muscles between your shoulders, in your upper back, lower back, buttocks and legs. Do some warm-up stretching before you grab that shovel.
4. When you do shovel, push the snow straight ahead. Don’t try to throw it. Walk it to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
5. Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.
6. Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.
7. Stop if you feel chest pain, or get really tired or have shortness of breath. You may need immediate professional help.
After any of these activities, if you are sore, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two. If you still feel soreness or pain after following all these tips, it may be time to see your doctor of chiropractic.