Winter’s Toll on Your Joints: Back

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

The spine is a very important structure of our bodies that needs constant care in order to reduce the risk of back injuries.  How do we maintain a strong yet supple spine?  During the winter, especially, “stiff backs” and lethargy are common since outdoor activity is often limited by weather. Fortunately, however, there are lifestyle changes we can make to maintain a healthy spine.

Flexibility of the spine plays a major role in decreasing the risk of back injury and pain. “Stiffness” in the mid-back can be caused by long periods of sitting at the computer, looking down at our cell phones, long commutes, or holding stress in our neck and shoulders. Some movement is better than no movement, and it may help to incorporate small stretches or exercises throughout the day.  Consider these simple ways to add movement to your day:

  • Practice stretches in bed to begin your day fresh and limber.
  • Take a break from sitting at your desk and move your spine in all six directions. (Avoid movement to extreme end ranges or over stretching). These gentle movements can also help to decrease accumulated muscle tensions from stress.

While strenuous exercises like running or weight training can be beneficial for working the heart and strengthening muscles, lighter and gentler forms of exercise can help maintain flexibility in the spine and joints.  People who suffer from back pain or arthritis may benefit from gentle yoga, tai chi, or aquatic exercises, many of which are offered as a class at local community centers. Aquatic exercises, such as walking in a pool, are a good alternative that takes the pressure off of bones, joints, and muscles. Water also offers natural resistance, which can help strengthen your muscles.

Before beginning a regular exercise routine, it is always important to be assessed by a medical professional to ensure safety and benefit.  The exceptional team of physical therapists and related healthcare providers at Cone Health are dedicated to educating individuals in the community about the importance of exercising and preventing back pain and injury. They can also help individuals select and perform appropriate exercises for each phase of healing, manage arthritis, and to minimize risk for further injuries.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Shin-Yiing Yeung is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health and aquatic therapy at Cone Health Alamance Regional Medical Center. She received a Bachelor of Science in biology and botany from the North Carolina State University and a doctor of physical therapy from Elon University. She has completed multiple pelvic health courses from Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute and now serves as an assistant teacher.  She uses her training in yoga therapy, mindfulness, and neuroscience therapeutic education to treat chronic pain using an evidence-based biopsychosocial approach when appropriate.  By collaborating with her patients, Shin-Yiing adjusts treatment according to each individual's healing process, comfort level and learning style. In addition to learning pain and stress management skills, her patients also learn to modify their exercise routine safely and to improve their posture and body mechanics related to home, work, and hobby activities for optimal wellness beyond rehab.