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Winter Safety Tips to Avoid Back Pain

Winter Safety Tips to Avoid Back Pain

Written by David Essaff, DO with Valley Health Interventional Spine

Winter is here! Many parts of the country, especially us along the eastern coastline, are experiencing unusually frigid and wet weather. Winter landscapes, while visually breathtaking and great for recreational fun, can present a significant physical hazard that may aggravate or even precipitate back and sciatic pain.

These seasonal changes bring snow, ice and rain, resulting in slick surfaces that increase your risk of falls. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unintentional falling is the leading cause of nonfatal injury for nearly all age groups. Acute falls range in severity from self-limiting sprains/strains to more serious and painful spine conditions like a compression fracture or herniated disc. If you experience back and/or sciatic pain after a fall it is important that you seek consultation with a spine physician to rule out the possibility of more concerning underlying structural damage.

Winter weather also brings the joy of various outdoor activities like skiing and snowboarding and, not without mention, the less joyous, but necessary, leaf raking, snow shoveling, chopping wood and hauling rock salt. These physically demanding activities involve repetitive bending, twisting and lifting, which are factors that may provoke back and/or sciatic pain.

Strategies to reduce and/or prevent back or sciatic pain this winter:

1. Stay Active

  • maintain a healthy home exercise program

2. Proper Form

  • limit repetitive bending, twisting, lifting
  • warm-up your muscles prior to activity with stretching and light lifting
  • when lifting, bend at the knees NOT at the waist and lift with your legs
  • when lifting, keep objects close to the body NOT at arms length
  • consider pushing snow rather than lifting and throwing snow

3. Proper Tools

  • use an ergonomic tool when available. i.e., shovel
  • consider light weight and long handled tools
  • consider plastic over metal options

4. Proper Footwear

  • consider footwear with a significant tread to avoid falls

5. Take Your Time

  • walk slowly and cautiously
  • when walking, try to keep you hands free
  • take short, shuffled and flat-footed steps “walk like a penguin”

To learn more about Valley Health Interventional Spine, or to make an appointment, please call 540-536-5121.