Can cold weather hurt your lower back?


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By Dr. Leonard J. Somarriba
Profysio Physical Therapy

As the temperature drops, aches and pains become a frequent occurrence. Without proper warm up and stretching, activities like snow shoveling and even prolonged standing can trigger low back pain, knee pain and other injuries.

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It is important to remember that blood flow to muscles and joints decreases as a direct result of reduced activity. In addition, the abundance of food during the holidays results in weight gain for most individuals. Therefore, it is crucial to stay active, keep the blood circulation going, and burn extra calories during the winter.

It is common knowledge that physical therapy helps in the treatment of injuries, but did you know that injury prevention becomes crucial during the winter? A single appointment with your physical therapist has the potential to help you enjoy a happy, healthy, and injury-free holiday season.

Injury Prevention 101 During the Winter

If you are going to be lifting and moving things, shoveling snow, or engaging in other forms of exercise, make sure to warm up and stretch before you begin. Start slowly and maintain the right posture as you increase the intensity of exercise over 10-15 minutes. Take short breaks and give your muscles and joints a chance to “adjust” to the task. Your physical therapist will suggest that you use your knees rather than your lower back to lift heavy objects, avoid twisting movements, and breathe normally at all times.

Hold heavy objects close to the body to reduce strain on the lumbar spine. The feet should be kept wide apart to increase the base of support, and the knees must be slightly bent. Use your entire body to move objects rather than twisting your back. If you are shoveling snow, you must avoid twisting motions of the lower back, such as throwing snow behind you over the shoulder.

With the right combination of breathing, warm up, and proper technique, you can reduce the probability of injury significantly. If you have aches and pains that get worse during the winter, it may be time to see a physical therapist. Your therapist will assess your current activity levels and functional limitations. The therapist will discuss your short term and long term goals. All this information will be used to devise a plan of action to treat the underlying cause of pain as quickly as possible.

It is important to maintain strength and stability in the muscles of the torso and lower back, especially during the winter. As the snow melts to ice, the risk of slips and falls increases. Maintaining and improving balance and stability, especially for seniors, is an important part of physical therapy and wellness.

We can educate you and your family about proper techniques to maintain posture, to improve balance, and to prevent injuries. Some simple prevention techniques, combined with good old fashioned common sense, will help you enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season. Winter is associated with a surge in the number of persons visiting the emergency room for snow shoveling and fall-related injuries, which is why prevention is so important.

As your physical therapists, we can help you stay safe and healthy. Give yourself (and your family) the gift of health and wellness. Contact us to learn more about how physical therapy can change your life this holiday season.

Back pain and other common conditions can be successfully treated with physical therapy.  Remember, you do not need a physician’s prescription to start physical therapy. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.

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