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Preparing for Fall & Winter

raking leaves, shoveling snow and a man with back pain

During the month of November, we’ll be sharing information on how to prepare for fall and winter both physically and mentally. These are months when we are out raking or shoveling snow…opportunities for a back injury, but also months where we find ourselves inside even more. With the continuation of COVID, it’s important to have a plan not just for your physical well-being, but your mental well-being too.

Anytime you engage in physical activity it is vital that you warm-up your muscles. It only takes a few minutes and can save you from back and neck pain for days to come. Here are some of my favorite warm-up exercises:

1. Squats - Lift with your legs, not with your back. This exercise will help you gain strength in your legs that will help with this. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and keep all your weight in your heels. Squat down as far as you can go while keeping your upper body as upright as possible. As soon as you start to bend over at the waist - stand back up. Make sure you keep your abdominals flexed throughout this exercise.

2. High knees - This will get your legs warmed up and ready for movement. Just march in place, bringing your knees as high as you can.

3. Arm circles - Shoveling is a strain on your arms and shoulders. This exercise will help you strengthen your arms so you can lift that heavy snow. Hold your arms out to the side and rotate them forward in small circles. After about 20 rotations forward, do 20 rotations backward.

4. Neck stretches - During the winter months, we tend to shrug up our shoulders, which tenses the neck. This will help you loosen those muscles. Put your right hand on the top of your head and use the weight of your arm to pull your head towards the right shoulder. Don’t force it, it should be a gentle pull. Do the same on the left side.

5. Torso rotation - A strong core will help with your shoveling. Warm-up your core by rotating your torso from the left to the right. This should be a controlled motion - don’t let your arms flop around and don’t use momentum to swing your body in one direction and then the other.

And then, once you’re done, here’s 5 stretches to help you loosen up after you’re done raking or clearing the snow. These will help make you less sore the day after, just in case you need to get back out there after another snowfall.

1. Neck stretches - Repeat the above exercise.

2. Eagle Arms - Wrap your arms around each other so your palms face each other push your arms up and your hands out - you’ll feel this stretch in your upper back. Switch which arm is on top to even out the stretch.

3. Cat & Cow - Get down on your hands and knees. Round your back up like a cat and hold, then arch your back and hold. Repeat several times.

4. Quad stretch - Grab onto your ankle behind your back and push your hip forward. Repeat with the other leg.

5. Hamstring stretch - Stand with your legs hip-width apart, bend over at the waist with straight legs, grab onto opposite elbows and dangle - you should feel this in the back of your legs.

As with all exercise, you should always consult with your healthcare provider prior to beginning.

Yours in health.

Dr. Andre & Dr. Thao


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