Back Safety Tips for 4 Winter Activities

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from 2000–2003, an estimated 17,465 persons ended up in the ER after having a holiday-decorating-related fall.

To help keep “Ho! Ho! Ho!” from turning into “Oh, no!”, Dr. Charles Rosen, Associate Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of California at Irvine Medical Center offers these holiday safety tips.

Ladder Safety

  1. Choose the right ladder for the job — step stools and utility ladders work for smaller indoor jobs and extension ladders for putting up outdoor holiday lights.
  2. Place ladders on level ground, especially when working outside.
  3. Don’t climb ladders with your hands full. Have someone hold the ladder for you and hand you the decorations or tools as needed.
  4. Never stand on the top of a ladder or the step directly below the top of a ladder.
  5. Don’t overreach—keep your hips inside the side rails of the ladder.

Travel Tips

  1. Carrying heavy or multiple bags? Distribute the weight you are carrying evenly on each side to keep from being off-balanced or twisted.
  2. Make multiple trips instead of loading yourself down with all the boxes, etc. at once.
  3. When traveling by air, use curbside check-in or use a luggage cart to transport your checked baggage to the check-in area. Or consider shipping your gifts ahead to cut down on what you have to carry.

Snow Shoveling

  1. Use either a small shovel or lighter loads on a larger one.
  2. Pace yourself, making sure you are properly positioned before lifting and dumping.

Ski Safety

  1. Stretch for 20 minutes before leaving for the slopes.
  2. Sit down when putting on your boots and buckling them.
  3. Watch your back: skiing on hardpack snow or “crud” or skiing over moguls can jar your joints.

Treatment

If in spite of your best attempts, you do feel an ache or a twinge, Dr. Rosen explains that it’s probably not due to muscle strain but a tear of the outer covering of the disc that has a lot of nerve fibers in it, along with referral pain to the paraspinal muscles.

“The tear of the annulus or covering will heal in two to seven days,” he adds, recommending that patients take an anti-inflammatory instead of acetaminophen since the latter won’t counteract the inflammatory chemicals that the annular tear releases. “Decrease your physical activity to what you can tolerate, and stay comfortable.”

WHN TIP – Call Your Doc: Always check with your doctor before taking any medication – even an OTC one – since it could interact with other meds you’re taking.

Time for PT? According to Dr. Rosen, physical therapy is for rehabilitation AFTER healing from an injury and to prevent future injury. It’s not for curing, and can often hurt during the acute healing phase.

Follow these tips to keep the pain from your back and the “merry” in your holiday!