Sometimes winter seems as if it is just about slipping, falling on the ice, and shoveling snow. And about getting cold, achy and sore and not wanting to go out of your house. With the way our weather has been this winter, we thought you could use some timely tips for dealing with these common winter injuries and pains. But remember that winter is also a time for enjoying nature and the exercise that can make you stronger and healthier.
Slipping and/or Falling On The Ice
If you should fall backwards:
- tuck your chin to your chest
- and throw your arms out to your sides
- and push back to ease your fall, (like making a snow angel).
This avoids cracking your head on the pavement. And if avoids spraining or breaking your wrists or arms. Landing flat back, knocks your breath out but spreads the jarring over a greater surface so less damage is done. If you are bundled for the cold, your clothing takes a lot of the force too.
If you fall forward, try to use your forearms to brace yourself rather than your outstretched hands. (Picture the sphinx). This avoids spraining or breaking your wrists which are more delicate and easier to break. After a fall, make sure everything moves all right. Then roll or slide off the slippery spot, before attempting to stand. It is a good idea to test yourself by rising up on your knees first before you stand on your feet.
Treatment For Pains From A Fall
On any area that is hot, swollen and feels as if it may be strained, use RICE
- compression and
Any injury that is not obviously healing within a week needs help, call for an appointment.
Remember that even getting jarred without actually hitting the ground can cause an upset to your nervous system. So, it is a good idea to have us check your spine after a slip or fall.
Treatments for Pains from Slipping and Twisting Without Falling
Slips without falls can often wrench backs, necks, shoulders or hips.
For strained muscles, try ice on the area for the first 24 hours. Remember use:
- an ice pack or
- crushed ice in a baggie or
- frozen peas
placed over a paper towel or hand towel for 15 minutes once per hour.
Then if redness and swelling have gone down, switch to wet heat
- hot water bottle
- microwave hot pack or
- towel run under hot water then wrung out
for 20 minutes per hour.
Then call for an appointment to free any spinal joints that may have gotten stuck or misaligned. Remember, a stuck joint may not hurt all at once, until you suddenly pull a muscle unexpectedly. That makes it a good idea to get checked after you wrench yourself avoiding a fall.
How to Avoid Snow Shoveling Pains
Being outdoors, breathing fresh air and getting exercise that works your heart, legs, buttocks and back is part of shoveling snow.
Even though it is a lot of work and seems like a tedious chore, moderate snow shoveling exercise is far better for people than sitting down and doing nothing. But you need to be in shape and your body needs to be stable enough to handle it.
One of the best ways to avoid straining yourself while shoveling snow is to learn the Foundation Training stabilization exercise. Particularly, those exercises strengthening your abdominal muscles through decompression breathing and anchoring. (https://www.foundationtraining.com/turn-butt-activate-deep-breathing-decompress-spine-bengreenfieldfitness-com/)
More Snow Shoveling Pain Avoidance Tips
Once you learn them and practice them year round, these exercises improve your posture. And, they make snow shoveling less of a strain. Also you will then find that snow shoveling enhances and strengthens your abs.
When you are going to shovel snow be sure to limber up in the house first with some mild stretches. Probably the most important thing to remember when shoveling snow is to take your time. Avoid hurrying. Also, load only the amount of snow on the shovel that you can lift comfortably.
DO NOT twist and turn your torso with a loaded shovel. Instead swap hands so that you shovel sometimes right handed and sometimes left handed. Repetitively twisting your body with too much weight in your hands can rupture discs. And if you have been out of shape or if your back has been unstable for years, snow shoveling wrong may injure your back or discs. As much as possible, throw the snow off your shovel forwards or to the side using your arms.
Treatments for Injured discs, sprained backs
Injured low back discs often send pain from your low back down the back of your leg. This is called sciatica. Lie down and put ice packs on your back for 15 minutes on and 45 minutes off. Call for an appointment as soon as possible because this is something we can help with gentle care and natural means.
Sprained backs can hurt as badly as injured discs and can refer pain into your legs as well. Ice packs at first also help sprained backs. We can take you through some simple tests to determine just how badly and what parts of your back got injured and then set up a treatment program to speed your healing.
A simple tip to avoid stiff achy muscles
Avoid stiff achy muscles after shoveling, skiing, skating or whatever winter activity you enjoy, by drinking lots of water. We lose more body fluid just breathing in the drier winter air, and we still sweat. Dehydration causes muscle cramping and achiness. Coffee, tea and hot cocoa do not count as replacement fluids. Neither does alcohol. In fact, although alcohol may feel ‘warming’ it actually decreases your body temperature when you need it most. They contribute to dehydration. Water is what is needed. Divide your body weight by half. You need that many ounces of water a day. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, you need 70 ounces of water or a little over 2 liters each day.
Avoiding Trigger Points
Muscle trigger points are a common cause of increased pains in the winter months. When chilled, muscles that have been injured in the past can start hurting again. The trigger point may even refer pain down limbs and around your back and head. The pain ranges from a cold achy pain to arthritis like pain to stiffness and even numbness and tingling.
So, while you may think a brief run out to the mail box or between your car and a store without a coat is safe, it could cause unnecessary suffering. Trigger points in muscles are irritated by cold, caffeine, nicotine and stress. An active trigger point can cause a lot of misery. They are notorious for not responding to anti-inflammatory medication.
Trigger points are treated by muscle work, stretching and some therapies like ultrasound. Trigger points are a very common cause of winter pains. If you suspect trigger points are causing you misery, we know how to find them and treat them so give us a call for an appointment.