It’s officially ski season and I thought this would be a good time to talk about tips to prevent back pain on ski trips. Ski trips can be very physically demanding and many of us are not prepared for the multiple days of strenuous physical activity that are typically part of a ski trip.
Just as one wouldn’t go out and run a marathon without properly training, one shouldn’t go on a ski trip without proper conditioning beforehand. Preventing back pain on ski trips starts weeks before your trip with proper exercise and conditioning. The major areas to focus on are the core muscles and the legs. If the legs are not properly conditioned there will be undue stress on the back and this may lead to a back injury. Some exercises that will improve leg and core strength include walking, biking, and swimming. These are some of the best activities for the spine and legs as they involve multiple muscle groups working in unison. Lunges, curls, and straight leg lifts are also excellent exercises to improve core strength and strengthen the leg muscles.
Once you make it to the slopes, it is very important to stretch out before, during, and after your ski days. Stretching gets the muscles loosened up and the joints lubricated. These are both very important for preventing back strains and sprains. Make sure to stretch your low back and legs with different stretching techniques.
For your low back, lie on your stomach, put your elbows on the floor underneath you and arch your back looking up and hold for 10 seconds. Then, turn over onto your back and pull your knees up to your chest and hold.
For your lower body, while standing bend forward with your legs straight and try to touch your toes. Next, while standing straight, bend your leg at the knee behind you and pull up while grasping your ankle to stretch your quad.
Skiing burns a lot of energy and our muscles can fatigue very quickly, so it is important to rest often throughout the day and stay well hydrated and nourished. When you are tired and hungry you are more likely to injure yourself. Think carefully about the “one last run” mentality. It’s better to call it a day early as opposed to trying to push it when fatigue has begun to set it.
Finally, the hot tubs are there for a reason, so use them. This will help relax the muscles and get you ready for the next day on the slopes.
Written by Michael Musacchio, Jr., M.D., a Center for Spine Care neurosurgeon specializing in minimally invasive spine surgery.
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