Tips to keep your back healthy this fall and winter season

by Cindy Binkley, FLT Columnist

Fall is here and winter is not far away. With the change of seasons, your chances of developing acute back pain may go up for a variety of reasons. As noted in a previous article in First Local Toledo, back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical care. The majority of back pain flairs are acute (short term) and the most common type is a lumbar strain, which is a muscle strain of your low back muscles. These muscles are strong and have many attachments to your spine and pelvis. Therefore, when they are injured the pain can be severe and debilitating. Fortunately, you can try the tips below to help prevent it from happening to you.

Raking and Shoveling

As temperatures drop, the leaves will change color and begin to fall to the ground. Shortly following, winter comes and snow will fall. The leaves need to be raked and the snow needs shoveled. These two activities involve repetitive bending and twisting, and can be painful to your low back. They are physically demanding and can easily lead to sprains or strains of your low back muscles.

Helpful tips to avoid low back pain during shoveling or raking include:

  1. Warm up your muscles: The weather will be cold and your muscles will likely be stiff. Warming up, by stretching and light exercise, before heading outside can decrease the chance of a strain.
  2. Pace yourself: Shoveling snow and raking leaves can be both exhausting and difficult. These activities are known to cause and exacerbate back pain. Frequent breaks are necessary.
  3. Proper form: Always lift with your legs and not your back! Bend at your knees when lifting, and avoid bending and twisting as much as possible.
  4. Use the right tools: Lightweight and long handled tools can decrease the strain felt on your body. Try using a plastic shovel instead of a metal one. A wheelbarrow or cart can also be helpful.
  5. Wear the right gear: Proper footwear (rubber soled) and gloves are essential.
  6. Of course, if snow shoveling is not an option, then using a simple snow blower can be of great assistance.
Slips and Falls on the Ice

Winter in northwest Ohio means snow on the ground, slick sidewalks and ice covered surfaces.

Acute back injuries from slips and falls can range from simple sprains to fractures of the spine and tailbone. The force of your body falling onto ground can be significant. If you develop radiating leg pain or numbness anywhere below the waist, contact your doctor right away. Hopefully a fall will be nothing more than a bruise to your ego and backside.

Tips to avoid slips and falls include:

  1. Wear proper footwear: A rubber-soled shoe can provide the traction and support needed on snow and ice covered surfaces.
  2. Watch where you are going: It sounds simple, but with everyone’s eyes glued to their smartphone, it’s no wonder people fall from not looking where they are going.
  3. Be careful: Do not take for granted the fact that even freshly fallen snow can have a layer of ice hidden beneath the surface.
  4. Hold onto handrails when going up and down steps.