Preventive Care: Don’t Let Your Ski Trip Go Downhill

By Dr. Molly Casey

Skiing Pain Prevention

It’s ski and snowboard season, and while these sports can be ridiculously fun and invigorating, they can also be taxing on your body. There are some specific things you can do to prevent injuries and support yourself so that you have the best season yet. Some of the elements of support are on the slopes, some are off.

Spine Stabilization

The bottom line is the spine takes a beating and works harder than usual during ski season. A day on the slopes often sounds like a significant trek via car or plane ride to the venue, a chunk of time on chair lifts, and then hours of bumpy rides down mountains that can involve great speed.

Before and after you’ve hit the bunny slope or the black diamond run -- that period when you’re off the slopes -- you can help your spine withstand the extra movement and effort it encounters. One of the first ways is to assure proper spinal movement and stabilization.

Chiropractic adjustments facilitate proper range of motion and alignment of bones and joints. Regular chiropractic adjustments will help assure you have optimal range of motion in the body and better mobility on the slopes.

Spinal stabilization exercises, such as the most basic plank, are phenomenal for supporting the proper core strength of the spine needed to have your best day on the snow. To perform a plank, get in the push-up position with legs outstretched, weight on tip-toes, with either the palms of your hands or the forearms (with your elbows beneath you) in line with your shoulders. Hold this position for one to three minutes at a time. Keep your spine straight, buttocks down, and belly in -- don’t let things sag here.

Flexibility and Warm-Up

Frequently, folks are so excited to be out of the car and on the mountain that they forget to warm up the muscles and stretch a bit. The warm-up and stretching cannot be understated in importance for having a great time and preventing injury. Below are stretches and warm-ups for the whole body.

Warm up - Before you put your boots on, do 25-50 jumping jacks and 10-15 air squats. For the air squats, bend down as if you’re going to sit in a chair (but with no chair present), and then stand back up again. If you have the flexibility, you can bring your buttocks down until it touches the back of your ankles then stand back up. Repeat.

Once you get your boots on, do a few standing spinal twists. Hands by your side, swing from right to left for one minute; you can outstretch your arms if you like to get more of a rotation and upper body movement involved.

Stretches - Love your hamstrings and stretch them. After your boots are on, put one foot on top of a bench or picnic table, stand with hips squared off to the bench/table and lean forward at the hips and reach your hands toward your ankles. Hold this stretch for 45 to 60 seconds. Do both sides two to three times.

Don’t forget your neck. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder and gently use your right hand to add pressure, bringing the ear closer to the right shoulder. This stretches the left side of the neck. Hold for 45 seconds, repeat right side; do both sides two to three times.

Lastly, attend to your arms and upper body by bringing your left arm across your chest and keep the arm level; use the right hand to pull the left arm in closer to chest and feel the stretch in the back of the left shoulder area. Hold for 45 seconds repeat with other arm, two to three times each side.

Know Your Sport Level

Dirty Harry once said that a man’s got to know his limitations, and this applies to skiers, snowboarders and other athletes. This small but important concept is overlooked way more often than not. Stay in your zone. Often, injuries are purely because folks go significantly above and beyond their skill level in too short of a time. They lose their balance and their bodies get out of control. Grow in your skill and ability and speed. Participate responsibly because you’re usually sharing the slopes with others who you could endanger.

If you do happen to find yourself injured after a weekend on the slopes, make sure to get in to see your chiropractor to address your spinal and extremity joint issues to help you heal faster and more efficiently, feel better, and get you returning to the slopes in less time!

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