For many people, back pain is a health issue that can interfere with the joys of winter and put a damper on your enthusiasm. Here is how to avoid it.
The back, the pillar of the human body
Each day, your back is under enormous pressure and performs a number of functions: it supports most of your body weight, performs many movements and takes on part of your stress and emotional tension. Because it is regularly under the strain of a number of “aggressors”, its defence mechanisms are sometimes put to the test. This is why many people experience back pain at some point in the course of their lifetime.
Whether it’s due to a wrong movement, poor posture, a nasty fall or the accumulation of years that have passed, back pain can slow down your pace considerably. Some people have to deal with chronic back pain on a daily basis, especially those who suffer from osteoarthritis. Fortunately, for most of us, it is an occasional and temporary annoyance.
Back health in winter
Although we run the risk of experiencing back pain throughout the year, the arrival of the winter season has its share of potential hazards. Certain factors may make your back vulnerable in winter, for example:
- the cold
- sports or physically demanding activities such as shoveling (a classic), skiing, skating, etc.
- a fall on ice
- a sedentary lifestyle (inactivity)
Here are a few useful tips on how to protect your back this winter:
- Adopt a proper stance when shoveling. For example, align your feet with your hips and bend your knees each time you lift the shovel of snow. Avoid twisting movements.
- Use an ergonomic shovel and avoid large shovels of snow.
- Take frequent breaks and respect your limits.
- In a big storm, if possible, remove snow gradually, in layers, rather than trying to clear it all at once.
- Watch for danger! A patch of black ice is hard to spot and can cause nasty falls.
- When walking outside, make sure you have the proper footwear.
- Wear shoes or boots with non-slip soles or that have removable cleats.
- If you have difficulty walking or balance problems, consider using a mobility aid such as a cane, walker or rollator.
- Stretch your back muscles before any sports or physical activity.
- Exercise regularly. If you aren’t active, your back will get stiff and you will be at greater risk of injury or back pain.
A few extra tips
Of course, you have to be careful with your back all year round, not only in winter. Here are a few examples of measures you can take to prevent injury:
- Maintain good posture at all times.
- Avoid excess weight by choosing a healthy lifestyle.
- Consult a kinesiologist to strengthen your muscles and do the recommended exercises on a regular basis.
- Adopt a good working posture and get up often.
If you suffer from back pain and want relief, talk to your pharmacist. Medications are available over the counter: analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, etc. They come in various formats, such as tablets, gel caps, gels, creams and ointments. Some are kept in the pharmacy area, but your pharmacist can give them to you without a prescription.
That said, with such a variety of options, it can be difficult to find your way around. In addition, some products may not be right for you depending on your health and the medications you take. Therefore, it is recommended that you always consult your pharmacist before taking any medication for back pain relief.
In many cases, it may be helpful to consult another health professional who is knowledgeable about back health such as a chiropractor, physiotherapist or an osteopath.
Enjoy the winter and be good to your back!