Snow, skiing and… spine strains?

Winter is the time of year when many consider hitting the slopes for some skiing sessions. If you want to keep your spine healthy while you swish and slide, here are some helpful tips:

Correct ski footwear and clothing.

Your stability is often influenced by the point of contact between your body and the ground – your feet! It is vital to have well-fitting ski boots that provide security and support on the skis. However, be careful that they aren’t too tight, as this can restrict your movement. You should not feel constrained by tight fabric or bulky clothes when stretching your arms or legs! This can lead to other parts of your body trying to compensate, which can then cause problems such as lower back pain. Clothing should keep you warm and comfortable, but allow you freedom to move.

Are you in piste condition?

With the adrenalin rush of whizzing down a run on the side of a mountain, it can be easy to overexert yourself. Skiing is physically demanding and good preparation is key. If you’ve got a skiing trip booked, try and build up your fitness well in advance. This will help strengthen your body and decrease your risk of injury. This applies to your heart and lungs too! On the slopes, staying hydrated, taking regular breaks, and listening to any warning signs of discomfort are essential. This way you can enjoy your skiing without having aches and pains ruin the holiday!

Also, the lovely cup of hot chocolate you enjoy on a break may heat you up inside, but your muscles will have cooled down. Remember to warm up again when you return to the run.

Strengthen legs and hips for skiing.

Skiing can put a lot of pressure on the outside hip muscles, and these have a tendency to be weak! Exercises that work the gluteus medius (such as the “Clam” in Pilates) can be a great help here. This will help you to strengthen the buttocks and assist when making those sweeping ski turns.
Alignment of the legs is really important in skiing as any misalignment can have a knock-on effect. This could range from placing extra strain on the pelvis, lower back, knees, or even the ankles. Skiers need to have a good sense of balance and be aware of how their bodyweight should be positioned when on the skis. Taking lessons with an instructor beforehand can be a good way of assessing your position. And of course, chiropractic treatment to ensure you are optimally aligned before you start!

Carry equipment properly

Be mindful when carrying equipment. It can be awkward to handle everything at first, especially if you are new to skiing. Skis can be heavy and wearing padded gloves can make it harder to hold on to things properly! Ensure you are keeping your knees soft and try to avoid twisting your body when lifting. Try and make sure loads are balanced and take care when walking, even at your hotel. Slippery ice and snow combined with low temperatures means we “hunch over” – making us unbalanced and more prone to falling!

Start slow in the snow

Green runs are good for beginners and can also be a great warm-up run to prepare for your further adventures! Remember that skiing off-piste on uneven ground or over moguls can place quite a strain on the spine. The jarring terrain transmits force through your bones and the surrounding soft tissue, which can aggravate existing conditions. Make sure you ski at the level you feel comfortable with. If possible, take lessons from a good instructor too. This should help you cope with the demands of skiing, helping you progress while keeping your body functioning well!

Learn to fall safely

Face-planting into the snow can cause more than a dent to your pride! Neck and arm injuries are common when falling; so how can you lessen the impact?

The primary rule is to try to land with your skis on the ground. If this isn’t possible, you need to consider how best to soften the blow! It may sound counter-intuitive but its important to relax as you fall. Try and roll onto the larger areas of your body (your side or bottom) rather than bracing your arms and taking direct impact on your wrists. You may end up with a few bruises and sore muscles but these take less time to recover from than a broken collarbone! Likewise, sometimes it is better to choose to “bail out” in a controlled manner. If you keep trying to hang on, building up speed and ending up in an uncontrolled tumble, you may suffer more damage!

Skiing can be great fun and your exertions on the slopes don’t have to lead to spine strain or injury. Whether you want a pre-slope tune-up to ensure you are in peak condition, or to put everything back in alignment on your return, your chiropractor can help! So before you head off to the slopes, why not slide onto our treatment bench for a check-up?

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