Outdoor activities can be an excellent way to get some fresh air and exercise during the long, chilly winter months, but the cold temperatures and icy surfaces can also lead to more injuries. Following is a list of tips to help you have fun while minimizing your risk of injury while enjoying winter sports such as skiing, skating, hockey, sledding, and even shoveling.
For sporting enthusiasts
- Cold muscles are more injury prone, so a short warm up prior to activity is important. Start with some light exercises, followed by gentle stretching. Make sure to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. If skiing, take at least one warm up run before heading to more difficult slopes.
- Become familiar with your surroundings. Know the whereabouts of fences, trees, rocks, open water, and ice patches so they can be avoided. Stay on marked trails and avoid any potentially dangerous areas such as steep hills. Slippery surfaces are particularly troublesome, as they can cause sudden jarring movements (e.g., unnatural fall avoidance).
- Avoid participating in winter sports if you are experiencing a lot of pain or are overtired.
Snow shoveling and back safety
Snow removal is one of the most common causes of back injury during the winter months. Improper body mechanics can cause a painful muscle sprain or strain, or even more serious injuries including herniated discs. Follow these chiropractor tips to help make the snow removal process as painless as possible:
- Invest in an ergonomic shovel. A shovel with a curved handle or adjustable handle length can take much of the stress off your back. A lightweight plastic blade will also help reduce the amount of weight you are required to lift.
- Use ergonomic lifting techniques. Bend at the hips and lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Do not try to lift loads that are too heavy for you, and walk to the deposit location rather than trying to toss the snow.
- Whenever possible, use a snow blower instead of a shovel. When used correctly, a snow blower can take much of the stress of snow removal off your back. Use the power of your legs to propel the machine forward, keeping your back upright and knees slightly bent.
Cold weather tips for everyone
Whether you prefer a rowdy pick-up hockey game or just shoveling your driveway, these tips can be applied to any outdoor activity:
- Pace yourself. Avoid overheating and dehydration by taking plenty of water breaks. Also use this as an opportunity to stretch the major muscle groups to keep them warm and flexible.
- Wear several layers of light, loose clothing. Layers can be removed or added as necessary according to a constantly changing body temperature.
- Wear shoes or boots with good treads to help prevent slipping. If you can, spread sand, rock salt, or kitty litter on high traffic areas to improve traction.
- Most importantly, if you feel yourself falling, try to land on your side or buttocks. Don't fight the fall—try to roll somewhat naturally, allowing your head to turn in the direction of the roll.