Simple tips to prevent injuries this winter

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Farm Forum

Keeping a healthy back in the winter isn’t easy when battling snow, ice and wind chills outside and a sedentary lifestyle inside, but there are many simple things a person can do, said chiropractor Brittany Sutton of Aberdeen Chiropractic.

The American News asked Sutton to share some tips on how to avoid an aching back this winter or anytime.

1. Shovel snow properly

Shoveling snow is exercise and a person should treat it just like they are going to a workout, Sutton said. That means do a few warm-up stretches before going outside. Also, start with a few smaller scoops before taking big full scoops of snow.

It is important to keep the shovel in front of you and bend your knees, she said. Scooping from the side and twisting puts more strain on the back.

2. Wear shoes with

good treads

Slipping on the ice can result in back injuries. Shoes or boots with smooth soles make it more likely to slip, she said.

“Look at the soles of your shoes and see if they are worn out,” she said. “It might be time to get some new ones.”

3. Use handrails

Whenever there are handrails available, outside or inside, use them, Sutton said. It is a simple practice that can help avoid falls and subsequent injuries.

4. Keep your

weight down

People come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but when a person gets too heavy, it can put a strain on the back.

“As we grow outward, the back has to take that strain,” Sutton said. “It is like a pregnant woman who starts to have lower back pain. There are people, especially men, that carry a lot of weight in their stomachs. Losing some of that weight will help their backs.”

A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables will help maintain ideal weight and give a person more energy, she said.

5. Get exercise

Exercise helps tone muscles and it doesn’t have to be complicated, Sutton said.

Walking is still one of the simplest and most effective exercises for balance, strength and mild cardiovascular affects, she said. Stretching a little before and afterward is also helpful, she said.

“A lot of these suggestions for keeping a healthy back are things we all know,” she said. “But we need to remind ourselves of them again.”

6. Strengthen the core

There are exercises that can help strengthen core abdominal and pelvic muscles. There are many resources out there that can explain proper technique.

Start simply with walking, which will strengthen core muscles, and add other exercises, Sutton said. Yoga and tai chi are excellent, she said.

7. Sit properly

Two factors are typically involved in sitting — one is how you sit and the other is the chair. Sitting with good posture, without slumping helps the back as does a chair with good lumbar support, she said.

“You should engage your core muscles when you are sitting,” she said.

Some people find sitting on a balance ball helpful. It requires people to engage their core muscles, because if they don’t, they will tip over.

8. Lift with your legs

“Lift with your leg muscles, not your back muscles” may be a standard line, but it holds true. People who bend over from the waist to lift a heavy object are much more inclined to strain their back than when they bend from the knees and use their thigh muscles to help carry the load.

9. Be conscious

of alignment

Many of the back strains Sutton treats are the result of twisting and turning movements that can be avoided with proper attention to the task.

“It is usually not lifting a heavy object that sends a person to the chiropractor, but something like twisting when lifting a laundry basket,” Sutton said.

Taking the time to get in front of the laundry basket and engaging core muscles when lifting can prevent an injury, she said.

Doing dishes with improper posture is also a common cause of back strain. Sutton said she sees it frequently in her practice.

“Don’t lean over the sink, but stand tall close to it and pull the dishes toward you,” she said.

10. Get treatment

If a strain or injury occurs, get treatment earlier rather than later, Sutton said. There is no need to suffer and prompt treatment speeds the healing process, she said.