The onset of winter weather means challenging conditions for outdoor activities and lurking dangers to our bodies— the back in particular.
Slipping on ice and shoveling snow cause many mishaps. And health professionals point out, cold weather alone makes the back vulnerable to injuries whether one is clearing the driveway, skiing, sledding, or working out. Muscles, tendons and ligaments in the back tighten and become less flexible, thus more prone to injury.
But while back problems may begin or become more pronounced in winter, Dr. Bradford Butler says there’s a year-round prescription for protection, through prevention, and it starts with maintaining flexibility.
“Almost all spinal problems begin with a loss of flexibility,” said Dr. Butler a chiropractor and author of The Blueprint For Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide To Non-Surgical Solutions. “The less flexible we are, the more stress the back is under; therefore, the more likely you are to have injury and breakdown.
“Let’s face it, very few people value prevention. If we did, as a country, we wouldn’t have the world’s most expensive health care system. For preventing back pain, maintenance care is always cheaper, faster, and longer-lasting than looking for a quick fix.”
Dr. Butler shares a six-point prevention strategy:
•Focus on stretching and flexibility. “Our body is designed to move,” Dr. Butler says. “Regular walking is a naturally occurring way to stay flexible. Yoga is a fantastic way to increase overall body flexibility, strength, and wellness.”
•Change your work environment. Dr. Butler says sitting for extended periods at work may be the biggest cause of back problems. “Sitting accelerates the breakdown of all parts of the spine that can cause pain,” he says. “Research suggests sitting is the worst position for your lower back. Get up and move around as much as possible. A standing desk is a good option.”
•Exercise regularly. “This is key to preventing back pain,” Dr. Butler says. “In addition to flexibility, strength that comes with consistent exercise is a main factor in avoiding injury.’
•Target nutrition and weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is important in preventing back pain. “The heavier you are, the more stress is transferred to your spine, muscles, and joints,” Dr. Butler says. “Eat a natural diet and avoid toxic and over processed foods. Healthy foods give your body the building blocks to heal and repair faster.”
•Seek chiropractic maintenance. “Having regular chiropractic care is an effective and safe way to prevent back and neck problems,” Dr. Butler says. “Chiropractic adjustment mobilizes the joints of the spinal segments, which prevents degeneration, injury, and pain.”
•Get massage treatments. “Massage therapists are experts in relaxing tense muscles or working out trigger points and breaking up scar tissue,” Dr. Butler says. “Massage also helps you deal with stress, which leads to tension.”
“The old saying ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ couldn’t be truer, especially when it comes to your back,” Dr. Butler says. “Prevention is an investment, not an expense.”
Bradford Butler, a chiropractor and author of The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions is owner and director of Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, which has three locations in northern New Jersey. For more information, visit: www.drbradfordbutler.com.