Muscle strains, inflammation of joints and aches are bound to occur during a ski holiday.
The posture needed to ski or snowboard – slightly bent forward – can be counteracted with some small tricks, claims osteopath Michael Fatica, co-founder of the Mayfair Clinic in London.
Lying over a rolled-up towel for five-minute intervals can arch the lower back, and basic exercises can keep the body from ‘seizing up’.
In a piece for The Hippocratic Post, he outlines what to do before and during a ski holiday for ultimate care, whether you are a seasoned skier or it’s your first time on the slopes.
The posture needed to ski or snowboard – slightly bent forward – can be counteracted with some small tricks, osteopath Michael Fatica, co-founder of the Mayfair Clinic in London said
With the right preparation, the sport can actually be beneficial for people with back and neck problems and people ‘well past their 50s’.
Importantly, it’s a great, low-impact form of exercise – which, like swimming, is highly beneficial for back pain and for strengthening the muscles supporting the spine
You’ll be fine as long as you’re sensible and adjust your skiing habits and intensity in line with your ability and levels of comfort.
It’s also crucial to build up your strength before your trip in an effective manner, often as early as August or September for New Year holidays.
Stretching or some light massage
Skiing puts huge amounts of pressure on the legs and lower back muscles, which are simply not conditioned to deal with the unique duration often spent on the slopes. Simple, regular stretching or a massage at the end of each day will help keep muscles in good condition. A warm shower or bath will also provide welcome relief.
DOES EXERCISE HELP BACK PAIN?
Being highly active reduces the risk of chronic lower-back pain by 16 per cent, research suggested in July 2017.
Regular moderate activity lowers the risk of such discomfort by 14 per cent, a study review found.
Yet, exercise has no impact on short-term back pain or that which causes hospitalisation or disability, the research adds.
Dr Joel Press, physiatrist-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘We were meant to move. We were not meant to be stagnant in any way.
‘Generally lower impact, walking type things are probably the starting point.
‘Swimming is another low-impact activity that puts less load on your back’.
Dr Press advises back-pain sufferers avoid sports that involve a lot of twisting and turning, such as golf and tennis.
The researchers, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, analysed data from 36 studies that included a total of 158,475 people.
The studies’ participants did not have back pain at the start of the investigations.
Physical activity was defined as sport and intentional exercise, as well as walking and climbing stairs.
The participants were considered active if they engaged in physical activity at least twice a week for a minimum of 60 minutes.
Repetitive stress and fatigue of the lower back are extremely common among skiers. Cold ice placed on the base of the spine for five minutes at the end of the day will help ease any inflammation.
Realign your posture
Lying over a rolled-up towel for five-minute intervals will help arch the lower back, which is very important to counteract the constant ‘forward bent’ position skiing requires.
If back pain strikes when you’re half-way down a mountain-side, I would always recommend not stopping completely as chances are the cold will immediately cause you to ‘stiffen’.
Instead, back off the intensity, find a less steep slope and move slowly to the bottom of the run. Try to stand up tall with good posture as this will help if you’ve irritated the discs and prevent making things worse.
Warm up before going to the slopes
Remember, your body is more at risk in the mornings, before it has had a proper chance to effectively warm-up. A couple of great exercises to perform to help relieve pain include:
A side bend – whereby you run your hand down the side of your thigh, while slowly bending over to that same side. With your other arm, stretch over your head to release some of the muscles on the side of your lower back. Do not bend forwards. Repeat this both sides.
You can also perform this movement on one knee, bending away from the knee that is on the floor. Again, ensure good posture and hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds and repeat a couple of times each side.
Prepare with exercise before the holiday
Some good exercises to build into your daily routine in the months leading up to a ski-holiday, include the following.
Begin with lower impact exercises for fitness, such as the cross trainer. Each month you should be increasing the resistance on the machine so your leg muscles begin to burn before your fitness (heart and lungs).
Include exercises like the leg press to really strengthen your legs. The goal here is higher reps, 15-25 rather than 8-10 reps.
Some basic core exercises like wood chops (in the gym) or dead bugs (at home) would be a nice addition for the lower back, alongside some side planks. Again, higher reps, 15-25 here for 3 x sets of each exercise.
Add in ‘lunge twists’ later on to help strengthen the legs, lower back and core simultaneously and help develop some balance to help vulnerable knees. 15-25 walking lunges is recommended, with a slow twist on each lunge, to the side of the forward leg.
Most ski-related injuries are related to our appetite for risk and adventure on the slopes. It’s great to push ourselves and try new runs, but caution is always recommended.
As for the slaloms and moguls – unless you have a burning desire to professionally ski or are looking to injure yourself, leave them to the professionals!
This article originally appeared on and has been reproduced with the permission of The Hippocratic Post