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Winter sports are exhilarating, in part, because of the meeting between burning muscles and crisp, biting air — and because they are a competition against extreme elements.

It is this meeting of extremes that makes wintertime ripe for both back pain and injury.

Sprains, strains, swollen muscles — and worse — were just a few of the approximately 440,000 winter sports-related injuries reported in 2010, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

To avoid hurting your back this winter, bolster your routine with these six tips:

1 – MAINTAIN THE SAME ROUTINE IN WINTER AS DURING REST OF THE YEAR

Doing a bit of hibernating is normal during the cold winter months. So is relaxing  exercise routines. When you become slack with exercise, you prime your body — and back — for injury. When winter rolls around, resist slowing down on core-strengthening and other exercises that protect your back.

2 – STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE

Sports like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and hockey require significant core strength. When the core is weak, the likelihood of a straining or otherwise injuring the back increases. Before you start your winter sports routine, get your core strong. It will not only help to deflect injury, a strong core helps to support your spine overall.

3 – WARM UP THOROUGHLY

Cold weather leads to tighter muscles and slower blood circulation. That combination  can prime muscles for cramping and injury. When engaging in winter sports, be sure to  pay special attention to warming up the muscles in the legs and lower back, both before and after you play. Some ideas include twisting exercises, squats — and stretches focused on the muscles used most during the particular sport you’re playing.

4 – KNOW YOUR SPORT

Making sure you know the proper way to hold your head and neck — and the rest of your body — while participating in winter sports is half the battle when it comes to avoiding back and neck injuries. Be sure you are maintaining proper form while on the slopes or ice, and learn how to fall “properly” so that you protect your back and limbs. Knowing your sport also includes using gear will be most protective against injury.

5 – STAY HYDRATED

Risk of dehydration is most acute during the winter because we often don’t feel as thirsty when it’s cold. According to a University of New Hampshire study, our bodies work harder during the winter — but sweat evaporates more quickly — so we end up losing more fluids. Muscles need fluids to function, so becoming dehydrated is a recipe for muscles that seize up and become ripe for injury. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after winter sports.

6 – ADD IN SPORTS THAT CAN LOOSEN YOUR BACK

A good way to counterbalance jarring your muscles when you hit the moguls is to buffer with non-winter sports. Cycling, swimming and walking all are great ways to loosen up the back and spine. Pepper them in on your winter sports off-days.

Got a winter sports injury that just won’t go away? Contact us online or give us a call at 323-319-2897 and we will be happy to help.