More and more snow falling means two things: you don’t want to leave your house and you probably have to shovel that snow. To add a third thing to this list; winter-specific aches and pains. Yes, I did just make up that term, winter-specific aches and pains, but the term does track.
I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to leave their house when it’s snowing and subzero temperatures; it’s not fun. But if you are a person who is very accustomed to walking outside, going to the gym, going to yoga, etc., and then decide that you don’t want to do those things, you probably end up sitting a lot more than you’re used to. I know it seems odd but prolonged sitting can and frequently does cause aches and pains. Our muscles, bones, ligaments, tissues, etc. prefer and need to move, change position, and have pressure on and off them in order for them to feel good. When they feel good, we usually feel good. We tend to see more aches and pains with any change in season (yes, to contradict myself earlier we often will see more aches and pains when people go from sitting a ton to moving a ton. We don’t like moving to and from 0 and 100 ever).
Shoveling is a more physical activity than people think it to be.
Think about it; you are repeatedly bending over, lifting something heavy (especially if we have heavier snow), and then tossing that heavy something to one side. Not only is this a ton of work, especially if you have a big driveway, but it is also pretty asymmetrical with most people having a preferred hand on the handle and a preferred tossing side. We see various shoulder and lower back problems from people all of a sudden doing this very physical activity, one that we very rarely have to do in terms of the entire year.
So, what do we do about this besides complain to Mother Nature (which I’m here for) or pay the teenager down the street to hurt himself so you don’t have to? (Just because they’re young does not mean they’re invincible).
Winter Blues Tips & Tricks:
Stay moving. Somehow, some way. It does not have to always be a grueling, sweaty, hour-long workout and you don’t always have to leave the house. You will be surprised how a little bit can really go a long way
Bundle up and go walk for 20 minutes (unless it’s absolutely freezing, I am not trying to be responsible for frostbite)
Set a timer for 30 minutes and do a circuit of 4 exercises
Put on a free yoga YouTube video and tell the family to leave you alone
Get on the floor and just stretch for 10 minutes
If you haven’t heard of cozy cardio, look it up and give it a try if you have an aerobic machine that may or may not double as a coat rack
Just try to be mindful of how much you’re sitting through the day; if you’ve been there a couple of hours, go up and down the stairs for 5 minutes
Shoveling. Okay, it might be unavoidable so here we go.
Switch the way you are holding the shovel and the direction you rotate/walk to dump the snow. Repeated motions (especially ones we do not commonly do) are a perfect way to create some achy joints and muscles.
BREEAATTHHEEE. Big inhales, big exhales. Holding your breath while bending and rotating is a great way to make your lumbar discs say “Oh hello you called??”
Take breaks. I know this one might be the hardest to achieve because you just want to get it done and it’s cold and you still have to get that other thing in the house done but if you can, take a little break and just sit down for a minute or use the time to put down salt.
Recruit some help. Again, this might be hard. But it’ll definitely help, obviously.
To sum up this blog, you are not alone. The DPTs who treat you and preach about doing exercises also do not want to leave the house or move when that means our fingers and toes are about to be popsicles. And then sometimes we have to be treated by our coworkers when we get the same aches and pains because we do in fact occasionally decide to become one with the couch. So take it from our experience; aches and pains typically appear from a pattern and we just have to avoid that pattern.
Stay warm friends and go Chiefs!
Kenzie Danner PT, DPT, CSMT, SFMA, Certified Sportsmetrics, Certified Functional Dry Needling L1