Avoid These 5 Common Winter Back Fails

With the new year and colder temperatures comes an increase in patients reporting back and neck pain. The travel, heavy lifting, cold weather and snow shoveling are all contributing factors. As seen on ABC7’s Good Morning Washington, here are five ways to prevent and treat spine injuries during the winter months.

1. Poor exercise and diet

It’s because we put such a strong emphasis on exercise and diet. When we’re talking about exercise, we’re talking about the core. It doesn’t mean you have to bench press your bodyweight to be pain free, but you want to have a strong yet supple core. Ideally a program designed by a physical therapist is best, but starting simple think yoga and pilates.

With respect to diet moderation is best. You can’t eliminate everything, otherwise life’s not fun. It’s all about sustainability. The important piece to note is that a calorie of a cookie is not the same as a calorie of red meat or a calorie of a salad. Each calorie is different and it deals with the body’s overall inflammation. The more processed, fatty, and fried foods we have, the harder it is on our overall body. These types of foods also lead to obesity; the extra weight carried on your body equals extra weight carried on your spine.

2. Lack of sleep

Living in a Type A society in the Washington DC area, we all fall prey to not getting enough rest. It’s important that we get enough sleep, and when we’re sleeping we’re using the right pillow to support our spine. What I always recommend to my patients is to get a pillow that allows you to maintain your body’s normal posture – your neck wants to curve backwards, as does your lower back. When it comes to mattresses, typically medium firmness is the best. If it’s too firm it can cause direct pressure points on your back and hurt. Too plush, you can lose your normal contour of your spine.

3. Stressors During Travel

When talking about traveling, the key is preparation. We want to fight that tendency to overpack; the more you put in your suitcase, and the bigger the suitcase, the more weight you have to lug around the airport. It’s best to use the smallest suitcase possible, and try to avoid overpacking.

When you’re actually on the plane, and crammed into really small seats, I recommend getting up every hour if possible. When you walk around you’ll get your blood flowing, and you’ll also want to stretch to loosen your back muscles.

4. Heavy lifting at home

If you have children at home there’s a chance you’re picking them up all the time, dealing with diaper changes, baths, and just overall picking up after them. All of this causes a strain on your back. It’s especially hard caring for your kids when you have a back problem. From the old adage, bend with the knees and bend with the hips – we can take that one step further:

  • Step relatively wide
  • Feet wider than your shoulder
  • Keep your child as close to your body as possible

By keeping your child closer to your body when lifting, it puts less force on your back. The further out you hold them, the harder it is on your back.

5. Improper snow shoveling

We see a lot of patients after a big snow storm, and it’s because of shoveling. Just like traveling, it all comes down to preparation. Your back will thank you if you get a good shovel ahead of time. By using an ergonomic shovel, you won’t have to bend forward as much as a normal shovel, allowing you to stand more upright. An upright position is easier on the back, especially when shoveling for long periods of time.

When shoveling, it is best to push the snow out of the way. Try to avoid lifting your shovel, as well as dumping snow to the side. By keeping your shovel on the ground, your risk of twisting and torquing your back lessens. If shoveling isn’t your thing, or you’re already experiencing back pain, it might be best to have someone else shovel for you.

6. Back pain myths debunked by Dr. Haines

Back pain is extremely common, especially during the winter months. Most often when people think they “threw out their back”, or injured their back, they think it’s just a small issue that will heal itself with time. This couldn’t be further from the truth; most times it’s a deeper issue that should be seen by a Spine Specialist. Fortunately, with the advancements in treatments and technology, 90% of patients get completely pain free without ever needing surgery. Even if you are in that 90%, it is still important to get your back looked at by a Spine Specialist as quickly as possible. That way you can prevent your condition from worsening, as well as get an accurate diagnosis so you can begin treatment.

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — With the holidays behind us, the new year often brings an increase in patients reporting back and spinal problems. The travel, heavy lifting, cold weather and snow shoveling are all contributing factors. Dr. Colin M. Haines, spine surgeon and director of research at the Virginia Spine Institute, shared how to prevent and treat injuries.

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