When snow, ice and frigid weather blast into town, watch out, says the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Winter recreational activities and chores can pose problems for the outdoor enthusiast whose body is not in condition. Winter sports like skating, skiing and sledding can cause painful muscle spasms, strains or tears if you’re not in shape. Even shoveling snow the wrong way, clambering awkwardly over snow banks, slipping on sidewalks and wearing the wrong kinds of clothing can all pose the potential for spasms, strains and sprains.
Simply walking outside in the freezing weather without layers of warm clothing can intensify older joint problems and cause a great deal of pain. As muscles and blood vessels contract to conserve the body’s heat, the blood supply to extremities is reduced. This lowers the functional capacity of many muscles, particularly among the physically unfit. Preparation for an outdoor winter activity, including conditioning the areas of the body that are most vulnerable, can help avoid injury and costly health care bills.
“Simply put, warming up is essential,” says Olympic speedskating gold and silver medalist Derek Parra. “In fact, when pressed for time, it’s better to shorten the length of your workout and keep a good warm-up than to skip the warm-up and dive right into the workout. Skipping your warm-up is the best way to get hurt.” Parra, who took both the gold and silver medals during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT, adds that, “You can complete a good warm-up in 15-20 minutes. And believe me, it will make your workout more pleasant and safe.”
Derek Parra and the ACA suggest that you start with some light aerobic activity (jogging, biking, fast walking) for about 7-10 minutes. Then follow these tips to help you fight back the winter weather:
Shoveling snow can also wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system. The ACA suggests the following tips for exercise of the snow shoveling variety:
After any of these activities, if you are sore, apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20 minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours. Repeat a couple of times each day over the next day or two.
If you continue to feel soreness, pain or strain after following these tips, it may be time to visit a doctor of chiropractic. “I’ve always believed in chiropractic care,” says Parra. “I’ve used a lot of other treatments for injuries and pain, but the problem doesn’t get fixed until I go to a doctor of chiropractic.”