5 tips to help prevent back and neck pain this winter

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Posted 01.12.2019

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas, and there’s no doubt you’re beginning to get a little busy this time of year. Having a back problem any time of year isn’t pleasant, but we haven’t got time for it now! Here are 5 tips to minimise the chance of that happening and move towards maximising your spinal health this winter.

1. Know your hot from your cold

Keeping warm will definitely be on the agenda this winter, but did you know heat can be used therapeutically? We find heat is most beneficial for aches and pains attributed to stiffness and tightness from muscles and joints in the spine, around the shoulders and hips. We don’t advise heat for acute pains or immediately after an injury. The rule is heat is for tension, ice is for injury. Try a hot bath or get the kettle on for a hot water bottle and a drink to help ease those tensions away.

2. Get some warm gloves!

Yes that’s right, wearing gloves this winter can help prevent back pain. How? When you are walking your arms should have a nice swing, which sets up small rotational movements into your thoracic spine (mid back). These movements and contractions from the stabilising shoulder muscles keep your spine mobile. Keeping your hands in your pockets whilst you are walking shuts this down and causes thoracic spine stiffness, which can lead to tension or mechanical compensations in the neck or low back.

3. Keep active

Now we know when to use heat, and we have our gloves, we need to get active! Winter is a lovely time to get the fire on and stay cosy inside, but just remember you and your family are probably already spending even less time outside – in general we opt to drive more rather than walking, and there are less spontaneous exertions compared to summer months. Try and factor in some forms of exercise to keep moving, whether it’s picking up an indoor sport, or just wrapping up warm and bracing the cold – your spine will appreciate it (and the cosy fire seems even more appealing after a nice brisk walk!)

4. Break it up

Now that we are active we need to know when our spine needs a break – all too often do we see spinal injuries in clinic which arise due to ‘unknown’ injury thresholds and ‘the back just goes’ without warning. If you are working in the garden raking leaves or one the odd occasion shovelling snow for example, you might be tempted to push through to just get the job done. Ideally we need to plan breaks into our work, the spine appreciates mini breaks and varying the type of force and positions (see our previous article for more information about this).

5. Know your cold from hot to help injuries

If you have followed all the above rules and have just been unlucky and incurred an injury, cold is superb at reducing inflammation which happens in strain and sprain types of spinal injuries shortly after they occur. Apply an ice pack (with a tea towel wrapped around) over the injured area for 10 minutes at a time for 24-48 hours as required (and obviously book in to see your GP or ourselves if you need to seek specific professional advice). Don’t put heat on inflamed injuries – it’s like throwing logs on the fire, speaking of which…

Andrew Harlow – Derby Chiropractor

Andrew made me feel comfortable immediately, listening carefully and giving me time to explain my concerns. He asked questions to elicit the exact nature of my problems and after treatment gave me advice on how to avoid problems in the future. His understanding, patience, and holistic approach has ensured I got better after treatment and also am able to keep active and fit. - Kate Tollervey

I have seen a lot of people over the years and like Andrew’s approach as he is extremely logical and always finds the root cause of the problem. Very happy to be back on the golf course. - Sam Warrington

Andrew dealt with me in a professional manor and was incredibly knowledgeable and thorough in his treatment. Highly recommended. Thank you very much. - Christine Charles

I have been treated by him over the last 6 years and have always been very impressed. - Robert Cooper