Tips to Stay Safe In Winter Weather to Prevent Back Pain

Winter in Northern Colorado can be harsh, and our physical therapy department sees an uptick in back injuries from winter-related activities. These can be muscle strains from shoveling snow or slipping on ice, all the way to more severe sports injuries from skiing and snowboarding accidents. So our physical therapy department has put together some winter safety tips to help you prevent back pain this winter while still enjoying all that Colorado’s winters have to offer.

Shovel Snow Properly

shoveling snow

Most low back injuries occur when people do two actions simultaneously, lifting and twisting, both of which coincide with shoveling snow. 


Here are a few tips for safe shoveling: 

  • Lift with your legs and arms instead of your back
  • Shovel a little bit at a time
  • Push the snow instead of throwing it
  • Take multiple breaks
  • Use the right type of shovel: a push-type shovel that is lightweight and allows you to keep a straight back while shoveling. Shoveling with a bent back can cause orthopedic injury.

Wear Proper Shoes to Prevent Slipping 

Wearing proper shoes when you are outside, which may be rubber soles or boots with deep treads, can limit your risk for slips. Make sure they fit correctly and are secured tight! Walking carefully when walking on slippery surfaces is equally important for preventing back pain and injury. You should be walking like a penguin! To do this, keep your feet underneath you, your hands to your side, and take small steps. These things keep your weight directly over your feet to limit slips and falls. Lastly, keep your hands out of your pockets while walking so you can brace yourself if you do fall. 

Stretch Often and Don’t Forget to Warm Up 

stretching in the snow

Cold weather can cause back pain because it causes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the spine to tighten. It is important to stretch often to keep your muscles warm and loose, especially before going outside to prevent muscle strains, dislocations, and/or tears. Additionally, you will benefit from doing a little warm-up any time you are heading out in the winter cold. Warming up is critical to avoiding injury during any season. It gets your blood flowing and loosens your muscles, better preparing you for your workout, snow shoveling, or just an outing in the cold weather. For some easy stretches to prevent back pain, check out this article from Healthline.  

Know When You’re Tired

Winter activities, especially winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, can be dangerous if you push yourself too hard or try to do something when your body is tired from being out in the elements for so long. Winter injuries, especially those on the slopes, often occur at the end of the day. The key here is to listen to your body and know when you’re tired. If you’re tired, don’t go on one last run. If you’re in the gym, be careful not to push yourself too much. Stopping early is a better alternative to injuring yourself.

Use Proper Gear to Avoid Injury

skiing gear

Whether you are shoveling snow, snowboarding, or skiing, it is important that you use proper gear. Using the proper equipment for these various tasks is key to preventing potential back pain. Too often, we see people come in with injuries that were the result of using old skiing equipment or the wrong kind of shovel to shovel snow. Be sure to check your gear periodically to ensure that it is in proper working condition.

The winter months can be a time of increased risk for accidents. Review these tips and keep them in mind to prevent back pain this winter and take appropriate precautions when possible. 

If you need more information about any of these safety topics or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with our Physical Therapy department. Physical and Occupational Therapy services are offered at the Longmont and Lafayette locations. To schedule an appointment, fill out an online appointment request form.

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