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. More
One of my patients came into my office last week wanting information to do a speech on bulging discs for his college public speaking class. He wanted to use this topic because he had suffered from disc problems for years being a former member of our heroic military, and it was something he could apply to the lives of other members of his class. Because I deal with this condition on a regular basis in my office, sitting down with this patient to help him with his speech made me remember that bulging discs can be a little scary and confusing to people who have never had back or neck problems. So I’m going to answer some of his questions for you so that you may have more information on a condition that may be affecting your life or the lives of people you care about.
To begin with, discs are the cartilagenous cushions that are between the vertebrae of your spine. Each disc has 2 parts: a tough outer layer of cartilage that surrounds a softer gel-like material in the center. I often compare them to jelly doughnuts with my patients. So a bulging disc is one that simply extends or bulges outside the space it should normally occupy due to some weaking of the outer disc. Bulging discs are very common and can often be asymptomatic unless something is done to inflame them.
So what can cause a bulging disc? Wear and tear on our bodies is my best answer to this question. I’ve seen teenage girls who were avid horseback riders come into my office with bulging discs because they’d been thrown off the horse a few times and then proceeded to put in hours on the back of a horse bouncing up and down on a joint that’s been injured. I’ll see the weekend warrior who sits at a desk weakening his spinal muscles all week long and then taxes his body to the limit on the court putting stresses on his spine that the stabilizing muscles are too weak to handle. I’ve seen the computer guru who spends hours at a time sitting with poor posture in front of a computer screen, not knowing that the poor posture was putting added stress on the discs in his neck causing them to weaken. The causes of a bulging disc are too numerous to mention, but I think you’re getting my point.
So how can a bulging disc be prevented? Simply by taking good care of your spine. If you’ve had an injury to your back – get it checked out by a chiropractor or other spinal specialist. An injured joint could be putting abnormal stresses on a disc causing it to weaken. Also, strengthen the stabilizing muscles of your spine by strengthening your core muscles. Our bodies were not designed to sit in a chair for 6-8 hours a day. This weakens our muscles. So if that’s what you do for a living, make sure you spend time working those muscles when you’re not at work. I’m a big advocate of using the physioballs for exercising. You can even use them to sit on during the day at work. I have another patient whose mother is a trainer in CA for some people in the movie industry. She told me the first thing she did when she took on a new client who spends a lot of time sitting is to make sure they’re sitting on a physioball for at least 50% of their day. She said doing that exponentially improved their results in the gym because they were working their muscles when they were away from the gym. Finally, be sensible with your lifting and other activities that put stress on your back. I have one friend who used to lift his sofa and other heavy furniture by himself on a regular basis – he too, ended up with a bulging disc. Heavy or awkward items can put extra stress on your spine which will weaken those discs causing them to eventually bulge.
So I hope this helps you get a better understanding of what a bulging disc is and what causes it. I’ll be answering a few more questions about bulging discs in a future post so please stop back to visit us for more information. More