By Matthew Mandoro, DC
It might not officially be winter here in New Jersey until December 21st, but many of us have already done our first round of shoveling snow. Unfortunately, that’s only one of the many challenges the winter season presents—especially when it comes to our health. From cold and flu season to falls and injuries, it seems like our bodies are put through a lot during this time of year. It’s important to be aware of the stress and changes your body is experiencing and to make taking care of yourself a priority.
Fighting Cold and Flu Season with Chiropractic Care
Unfortunately, even with taking preventative measures, it’s likely that all of us will experience a cold at some point this winter season. While the common cold can be inconvenient, it usually isn’t serious. In recent years especially, the flu has been much more concerning with the 2017-2018 season being one of the worst. According to the CDC, overall hospitalization rates for all ages during 2017-2018 were the highest ever recorded. While it’s important to take basic steps, such as getting the flu shot, frequently washing your hands, etc., there are a few additional things that can help – and they may surprise you.
Do you associate chiropractic care with preventing or treating cold and flu symptoms? A few years ago, researchers looked into whether a single chiropractic adjustment could have a positive affect on the immune system. According to the study published in the Chiropractic and Manual Therapies, they found that it did! Chiropractic care can help to boost the immune system by keeping the central nervous system properly aligned. When the spine is in its proper place, the body can work more efficiently, which is good for your overall health. Whether you regularly come in for chiropractic care or not, it can be beneficial to help you get through this upcoming cold and flu season.
Preventing Falls and Injuries during the Winter
From raking leaves to shoveling snow, the chores seem endless this time of year – and they can take a toll on your body, particularly your back. According to Spine Universe, many people suffer from muscle fatigue, low back strain, vertebral disc damage, and even spinal fractures during the winter season. Some of these injuries result from excessive stress to spinal structures by slip and fall accidents. When performing tasks such as shoveling, it’s important to keep your safety in mind. Here are a few tips for you to follow:
- Stretch and warm up before you get started as your muscles work better when warm.
- Spread salt to create traction to prevent trips or falls.
- Remember to keep good posture to maintain the natural curve of your spine.
- Try not to lift any snow, but if you need to, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends lifting it properly. “Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist.”
- Take frequent breaks and make sure to stay hydrated.
- If you start experiencing any pain, stop what you are doing and ask someone for assistance. If you do injure yourself, make an appointment to see your chiropractor or physical therapist as soon as possible.
Winter Sports-Related Injuries
Winter activities including snowboarding, sledding, skating, hockey and skiing can also lead to injuries. More than 246,000 people were treated at hospitals, doctors’ offices, and emergency rooms for injuries related to winter sports in 2015, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some of the more common injuries are sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that many of these injuries can be prevented if people participating in winter sports are in good physical condition, stay alert and stop if they feel tired or are in pain. Here are a few additional tips they suggest following:
- Warm up as muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more vulnerable to injury.
- Wear protective gear, such as goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
- Stay hydrated before, during and after your activity.
- Do not participate in a sport if you are feeling pain or are exhausted as that’s when the most injuries tend to occur.
If you experience an injury this season, make sure to reach out to NJ Spine and Wellness sports medicine team so we can help you get back in the game.
Managing Your Pain During the Winter
If you suffer from conditions such as arthritis, back pain or joint pain, the cold winter weather might make you feel more uncomfortable. Whether you have a pain-related condition or not, many people say that they generally feel achier during the winter. Here are some ways you can protect your joints as the weather grows cold.
- Stay active to improve your function and mobility. If you are typically active outside, try indoor exercises like using the treadmill or an indoor pool.
- Stretch daily to avoid feeling stiff.
- Dress warmly to protect your skin and joints from the cold.
- You can use a heating pad or ice pack for more intense pain, but try to limit the amount of time you use these per day.
- If you suffer from chronic pain, make sure to keep up with your pain management treatments and let your doctor know if it worsens.
Staying Active in the Winter
Whether you suffer from an ongoing condition or experience an injury, staying active during the winter is one of the best things you can do for your body and overall health. Here are some tips to help you stick with it:
- Plan ahead—make a schedule for the week laying out the types of activities you’d like to do each day.
- Exercise at home—especially in the case of bad weather, select workouts you enjoy from YouTube, a DVD, etc. and have them on hand in case you can’t make it to the gym. If you work with a physical therapist, your PT will always give you exercises that you can perform on your own at home.
- Set goals—whether you do this on your own or in partnership with your physical therapist, create a list of goals that you hope to accomplish by the end of the winter.
- Find indoor activities you enjoy—some people despise the treadmill while others love it, but find at least one type of indoor activity, such as cycling, swimming or yoga that can keep you moving when it’s too cold outside.
If you regularly come to NJ Spine and Wellness for chiropractic or physical therapy treatments, make sure to keep it up in the winter. We hope you stay safe and warm, but if you experience anything from back/join pain to an injury or are just looking for relief from a cold or the flu, we are here for you. We look forward to helping to keep you strong this winter!
Learn more about our services here and give us a call at 877-333-6579 to make an appointment with one of our specialists.
Dr. Matt Mondoro is from Holmdel, NJ. He graduated from TCNJ with a bachelor’s of science. From there, he continued his education at the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic where he graduated in 2012 as the class valedictorian. Learn more about him here.