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Tips to avoid common winter injuries

What are the Most Common Winter Injuries?

With the temperatures slowly dropping we need to prepare for the upcoming cold winter months. Winter and snow can present challenges to all ages with slips and falls to even shovelling snow. Not long ago someone told me that it would be great if the snow fell on the grass and fields and left the streets and sidewalks clear. OK so much for the wishful thinking. December is soon upon us and snow shoveling and cleaning iced walkways cars and driveways will become the norm.

What are the Most Common Winter Injuries?

  • There are a number of activities in the winter that bring risks of personal injury as well as others.
  • Shovelling snow especially wet heavy snow can cause muscle strain back aches as well as more severe type injuries such as sciatica.
  • Scraping ice of the car can cause wrist and elbow injuries with repetitive type movements where rotation and pushing are involved.
  • Slippery icy conditions can lead to car accidents mostly minor but in those unfortunate situations more severe type accidents can lead to Whiplash Associated Disorders.
  • Falling on ice or snow covered roads and sidewalks.

Fortunately most injuries tend to be minor, however some injuries can be persistent and painful. The potential injuries that can occur from slips and falls to ice to a car accident vary such as:

  • Bruising
  • Head or Brain Injuries such as Whiplash Associated Disorders including concussions
  • Ankle strains, wrist strains to knee injuries
  • Broken bones such as wrist or arm fractures as well as hip fractures
  • Low back injuries such as sciatica

In some cases many people are unaware that they may have suffered a severe injury as some many not feel the full effect of the fall immediately. Symptoms of Whiplash often worsen in the days following the injury. Some people may believe that their pain and discomfort will pass. Symptoms such as pain or swelling shouldn’t be ignored and seeking the advice of a medical professional is only being prudent.

Prevention is the best way to avoid injuries. There are many things one can do to avoid injuries:

  • If you own a car install winter tires and have the car winterized. Winter blades, windshield washer fluids and winter tires. Winter tires are advantageous in cold weather without snow or ice on the ground as they tires are optimized to grip in colder weather.
  • When shovelling snow choose an ergonomic shovel which will make cleaning snow easier and require less effort. Choose a shovel that has a curved handle or has an adjustable handle length whip helps you to bend your knees slightly while keeping the shovel blade on the ground. Smaller and lighter weight shovels also reduces the weight of the snow you need to move.
  • Before you even start to go out for a walk or before shovelling snow try to stretch out and warm up as cold tight muscles are more prone to injuries. Start by doing some stretches prior to going out including stretching the low back and hamstrings. If you are going on a walk go for a small but brisk walk (watch out for ice/snow).
  • When shovelling snow try to move smaller amounts as snow can get very heavy when wet. Keep a steady pace and take your time when shovelling. Don’t lift snow with your back as it can easily cause injuries. Lifting snow, rotating and then throwing the snow is hard on a back. Try to push the snow by creating paths in your driveway and shovel to each side. If you need to lift the snow then bend your knees and lift with your legs. Most back injuries in winter occur due to lifting heavy snow with your back.
  • Work in stages and take breaks when shovelling snow. Keep hydrated and dress in layers wearing hats and glove to keep warm. Shovelling can be a vigorous activity so dressing in layers help to let the skin breathe while keeping you warm and protection from the wind. If possible having a snow blower will make the job much easier.

Some other tips which can be helpful are to wear proper footwear that is made for cold snowy icy conditions. Shorter steps to keep yourself balanced and try to slow things down. Rushing to clear the snow can cause injuries to occur especially the lower back. Keep salt sand or a de-icer around the house to use on the driveway and walkways to keep the path clear or less slippery which benefits your neighbours as well as yourself. When going for a walk it is always a good idea to keep a cell phone handy just in case an injury occurs and you need help.

Hopefully the tips above are helpful. The most common winter injuries mostly occur from shoveling snow or slips and falls. Shoulder, elbow and back injuries occur often when shoveling snow improperly or trying to move heavy wet snow. The good news is that many winter related injuries can be avoided by being prepared and cautious. Also acute injuries take considerably less time to heal that an injury that has been left untreated. Should you need any help or assistance contact Dynamic Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic Inc. at 905-273-5433 or contact us at www.dynamicphysiotherapy.ca Appointments for any of our paramedical services can be scheduled directly via our website. STAY SAFE


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