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Preventing Back Pain While Skiing & Snowboarding

As the temperatures drop, many areas are starting to get snow. Skiing and snowboarding trips are popular during the colder months, especially for those of us who live in warmer climates. However, due to the often fast-paced nature of these sports, there is a high risk of back injury, especially for those who don’t participate regularly. Whether you live near a ski slope and go often or you are just taking a winter vacation, you can use these tips to avoid leaving the slopes with back pain.

Common Back Injuries in Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are more often associated with knee, ankle, and upper body injuries, but there is a risk of back injury as well. Both skiing and snowboarding are very physically demanding, and if your muscles aren’t used to those movements, you may leave the slopes with a sore back. Muscle strains are common, particularly in the lower back. If your muscles aren’t conditioned properly, you increase the risk of straining your back.

Aside from injuries that occur due to unconditioned muscles, the most common back injuries during skiing and snowboarding occur while falling. If you fall, it can be jarring on the spine or cause it to twist unnaturally. This puts stress on the soft tissues that support the spine. Attempting to self-correct while falling can also lead to muscle strains. Falling can also lead to concussions and even whiplash. Consider the terrain when skiing and snowboarding; bumpy terrain can be more jarring to the spine.

Preventing Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

The best way to prevent back injuries while skiing and snowboarding is to prepare yourself beforehand. These tips will help you get ready for the slopes.

  1. Start exercising early. If you aren’t used to skiing or snowboarding on a regular basis, or aren’t in good shape, you are at a higher risk for straining your back. Do exercises that focus on core strength. The core muscles help to support the spine, so it is important to keep them in shape even when you aren’t on the slopes. Also, don’t neglect your hips and hamstrings. Weakened, tight muscles in those areas can make the lower back work harder, increasing your chances of a lower back strain. You can also try exercises that help improve your balance so you are less likely to fall.
  2. Always warm up first. This is constantly recommended for all sports, but it bears repeating. Cold muscles are more likely to be injured. Make sure your warm-up includes stretching to loosen up your back, hips, and hamstrings. You should also go for a warm-up run on one of the easier slopes, even if you are used to something more advanced.
  3. Learn how to fall correctly. As we discussed above, a lot of back injuries from skiing and snowboarding are the result of a fall. Ideally, we would like to avoid falls altogether, but they can’t always be prevented. Learning to fall correctly can help to reduce your risk of injury when falling is inevitable. When falling, bend your arms and knees, and tuck your head in. This stance helps to prevent back and neck strain, and also stops you from falling onto your hands when falling forward.
  4. Don’t choose a slope outside of your ability. If you aren’t used to skiing or snowboarding on a more difficult slope, you put yourself at a higher risk of injury. If you aren’t an experienced skier, it’s better to err on the safe side and work your way up to the more advanced slopes. You might want to consider working with an instructor to improve your skills if you want to ski or snowboard on the advanced slopes.

Not every skiing and snowboarding injury is preventable, but with the right precautions, you can greatly reduce your chances of leaving the slopes with back pain. For more winter sports tips, follow me on Twitter @GleiberMD.