11 Dec Hendrick Wellness Center’s 7 Essential Tips to Keep Your Back Safe this Winter
Winter is nearly here! For those of us living in the Rio Grande Valley, that means cooler weather, fun holiday parties, a little bit of down time to enjoy with our loved ones, and the wonderful opportunity to use some of those winter outfits that get stuck in the back of our closets.
Unfortunately, the colder weather can also bring plenty of pain for those of us suffering from back or spinal injuries. The brisk temperatures can cause tendons, muscles, and spinal supporting ligaments to tighten up. In turn, this can constrict your back and pull on sensitive nerve roots located throughout your spinal column, causing pain at every movement.
Of course, taking preventative measures is one of the best things you can do to prevent a back or spinal-related injury. The McAllen chiropractors at Hendrick Wellness Center would like to offer you 7 essential tips to help you keep your back safe this winter.
Enjoy a painless winter.
7 Tips You Need to Know to Protect Your Back
- Work Smart
Many of us prefer to do yard work during the winter because of cooler temperatures and a decreased chance of suffering a sunburn (plus there’s always the seasonal maintenance your home may need). However, there are some extra precautions you’ll want to take this season to avoid hurting your back muscles.
Excessive bending, flexing, twisting, or carrying of heavy weights can put your winter-stiff muscles in further strain, causing herniations or subluxations. Some preventative actions you can to protect yourself include:
- Warm up your muscles (e.g. jog in-place, jumping jacks, light stretching)
- Push in a neutral position instead of pulling
- Don’t carry excessively heavy objects without help
- Remember to carry with your legs, not your back
- Bend at the knees and hips, not with your back
- Pull strength from your core, not your back muscles
- Take breaks often
You might not realize it, but cold air can cause our bodies to dehydrate faster, especially if you are exercising intensely or performing manual labor. When being active, you tend to lose more vapor when you breathe and sweat evaporates more quickly. You may not think you are sweating as much and, unfortunately, this can trick us into thinking we don’t need to drink as much water – but that’s far from the truth.
Take special care to drink water and hydrate regularly during winter months to keep your muscles and soft tissues flexible. Flexible muscles mean less chance of straining them.
During the winter, it gets darker earlier, days tend to be cloudier, we tend to stay inside a lot more which means less sunlight, and finally, many of us end up stressing over holiday preparations.
Research has demonstrated that all these factors related to the winter season can cause seasonal depression. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this disorder can affect individuals starting from the first weeks of fall until the end of winter. Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from SAD also have an increased risk of suffering from back pain.
Studies have shown that people experiencing this seasonal disorder see an increase in proteins known as cytokines. Cytokines are in charge of protecting injured or affected areas of the body by causing inflammation in an attempt to stop the illness from spreading. This increase in cytokines, however, increase the chances of suffering from back pain during the winter.
It is recommended to try to get some extra sunlight and to be a little more physically active to avoid a severe case of SAD.
Cold weather makes it extremely tempting to stay home, snuggle up in our blankets, and watch Netflix all day. But as tempting as this may be, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the major risk-increasing factors of back pain.
A sedentary life can lead to posture problems which can hinder your blood flow and cause your muscles to stiffen.
Mild daily exercise is recommended to keep your back strong and healthy throughout the chilly winter months. Soft exercises and stretching help to relax your muscles, combat the tension caused by the cold temperatures, and reduce the chance of injury.
While it does not generally snow in McAllen or the Rio Grande Valley, we do deal with the occasional winter freeze. Stiff muscles and frozen/slippery walkways can easily lead to an accident in which you hurt your back.
This winter, we recommend you strengthen your core in order to improve your balance and protect yourself from an accidental fall. Some tips to help in this area include:
- Exercise your core (i.e. gluteus, abdomen, and back)
- Practice yoga or tai chi as a mild workout
- Use a cane if necessary for extra support
- Talk to your doctor about side effects caused by the medications you are taking (i.e. medication causing dizziness)
While black ice is not a common sight in south Texas, winter does come with cold rains and freezing temperatures on occasion. To avoid getting into a car accident, or trip and fall accident as you are out and about, consider leaving earlier than normal to run any errands.
Rushing, especially during the holiday season, can lead to all sorts of accidents that can cause you a serious back injury – or worse. Plan ahead and take your time instead of risking your health.
You’ll want to keep yourself warm during the winter months, not only because of the weather but because it is good for your muscles and overall health.
In general, wearing warm clothing means extra support and less of a chance of muscles stiffening up at the shock of a temperature change as you move from warm to cold areas. Warm muscles mean less pain and less of a chance of getting hurt.
While the Rio Grande Valley doesn’t necessarily get horrible winter weather like our northern neighbors, the winter months can be chilly enough to lend themselves to back pain and spinal-related issues. If you should find yourself in need of chiropractic services, our McAllen chiropractors at Hendrick Wellness offer a family friendly and relaxing environment. We are ready to serve you no matter what age you are.