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WINTER ACTIVITIES:  TIPS TO AVOID INJURIES

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, Utah, 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:

Skiing — do 10 to 15 squats. Stand with your legs
shoulder width apart, knees aligned over your feet.
Slowly lower your buttocks as you bend your knees
over your feet. Stand up straight again.

Skating — do lunges. Take a moderately advanced
step with one foot. Let your back knee come down to
the floor while keeping your shoulders in position over
your hips. Repeat the process with your other foot.

Sledding/tobogganing — do knee-to-chest stretches
to fight compression injuries caused by repetitive
bouncing over the snow. Either sitting or lying on your
back, pull your knees to your chest and hold for up to
30 seconds.

Don’t forget cool-down stretching for all of these
sports — At the bottom of the sledding hill, for
instance, before trudging back up, do some more
knees-to-chest stretches, or repetitive squatting movements
to restore flexibility.

Shoveling snow can also wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal
system. The ACA suggests the following tips
for exercise of the snow shoveling variety:
• If you must shovel snow, be careful. Listen to
weather forecasts so you can rise early and
have time to shovel before work.
• Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and
flexible.
• Shoveling can strain “de-conditioned” muscles
between your shoulders, in your upper back,
lower back, buttocks and legs. So, do some
warm-up stretching before you grab that shovel.
• When you do shovel, push the snow straight
ahead. Don’t try to throw it. Walk it to the snow
bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning
motions.
• Bend your knees to lift when shoveling. Let the
muscles of your legs and arms do the work,
not your back.
• Take frequent rest breaks to take the strain off
your muscles. A fatigued body asks for injury.
• Stop if you feel chest pain, or get really tired or
have shortness of breath. You may need immediate
professional help.

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.”

“Simply put, warming up is essential,”
says Olympic speedskating gold and silver
medalist Derek Parra. “Skipping
your warm-up is the best way to get
hurt.”

For more information on prevention and wellness, or to
find a doctor of chiropractic near you, go to the Patient
Information section on ACA’s Web site at www.acatoday.
org or call 800-986-4636

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