Staying fit during the winter holiday season comes with a long list of unique challenges and obstacles, but staying injury free can take even more of an effort when you introduce new, winter-specific activities like skiing, skating and sledding into your fitness routine. Before the winter activity season is in full swing, take steps today to warm up and loosen your muscles so you can hit the slopes or the rink pain free, as well as minimize after-activity soreness and fatigue.
Warm Up and Engage New Muscle Groups during the Pre-Season to Stay Injury Free
Before carving fresh tracks down the slopes this winter or lacing up your skates to hit the rink with your kids, it is important to incorporate a combination of regular stretching and therapeutic massage sessions for an active and injury free winter season. The key to keeping active during the winter months and staying off your family’s injured list is to focus on body flexibility and lengthening your muscles in the pre-season. Many of the popular wintertime activities (skiing, snowboarding and skating) physically impact your lower body, thereby creating a need for you to focus your stretching and strength efforts on hip, hamstring and trunk/lower back flexibility.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, there are two common types of stretching – static stretching and dynamic stretching – that are good for promoting overall flexibility. Research indicates that holding a static stretch for 20-30 seconds allows your muscles time to relax and elongate, thereby increasing joint range of motion. Dynamic stretching on the other hand includes low intensity exercises that mimic sport specific movements. These types of stretches are good for warming up your body prior to a sports activity, as they help increase circulation, reduce muscle tightness and help your nervous system’s ability to contract muscles forcefully.
To kick off your winter pre-season regimen, it’s a good idea to combine consistent stretching sessions with routinely scheduled monthly massages 8-12 weeks prior to the start of your favorite wintertime activity. Regular therapeutic massages prior to your desired activity allow your body to release the toxins found in tight muscles, while increasing overall flexibility and circulation. Additionally, your massage therapist can assess and monitor your body’s flexibility range, while suggesting specific stretches and other techniques that will focus on lengthening and strengthening your body’s problem areas.
Remedy Your Winter Aches and Pains with Regular Massage Body Work
As the snow begins to fall and the barometric pressure takes a dive south, your body faces some unique challenges, especially as you get older and recovery times for muscle injuries and overuse get longer. Even when you focus on preparing your body for winter wear and tear before the season starts, there still may be an unfortunate event where you will become injured or experience some sort of ache and pain associated with muscle overuse and fatigue.
Lower back pain, in particular, is a common injury culprit in the winter as you can overdo it shoveling snow, incorrectly bending over to push your children’s sleds or accidently slipping and falling on ice covered sidewalks. In fact, research indicates that 70-85% of the population will experience low back pain at some point and lower back pain is one of the most common and costly musculoskeletal problem in modern society. Luckily, research supports that massage therapy can minimize pain and disability, while increasing the speed of return to normal function. Massage specifically is beneficial for patients with subacute (lasting four to 12 weeks) and chronic (lasting longer than 12 weeks) non-specific low-back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education. Furlan AD, Imamura M, Dryden T, Irvin E. Massage for low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001929. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001929.pub2
Additional research from Group Health Research Institute, the University of Washington in Seattle, the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, and the University of Vermont in Burlington revealed that massage therapy has helped reduce pain and improve function more rapidly than usual medical care in people with chronic low-back pain. Back pain is a health problem that affects millions of Americans and is the most common medical condition for which people use complementary and alternative medicine practices, such as massage therapy. Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, et al. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;155(1):1–9