Winter is in full swing and all too often we see injuries that could have been prevented. As a chiropractor, I see that most winter-related injuries occur because we don’t make the right preparations and we carry about our hurried lives as if the snow and ice are not there.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid winter-related injuries.
1. Leave enough time: In warmer months it is easy to walk out of the door and go to where you are going without much thought. Winter however poses its challenges. We may be faced with icy or snowy conditions, or our cars may need to be scraped off and warmed up. Leaving enough time to do these things will help ensure that we are not rushing and putting others and ourselves in danger.
2. Be more cautious: If we make the assumption that the ground might be more slippery than usual this may help avoid injury. Be more careful or deliberate with your steps. Use handrails and supports. Be more mindful when carrying loads of groceries or other items that can make you unstable and more susceptible to falling. Make multiple trips if necessary.
3. Dress the part: This one is common especially with the winters in Southwestern Ontario. One day it is warm and the next freezing. Sometimes we get caught in the snow with a light jacket and dress shoes. Take time to check the weather. Wearing the proper footwear with good traction will help avoid slips and falls. Also, if we are not dressed in warm clothing, we have a tendency to tighten our muscles and put ourselves in injury-prone postures.
4. Warm up before you do anything: We should approach work like we do exercise. We would not start lifting weights without warming up first. By the same token, going out and shoveling heavy snow without warming up to it is asking for trouble. All it takes is some light stretches and gradually get into it. Start slow and work your way up. Take frequent breaks.
5. Use proper technique: Again, common sense dictates that we use proper form when exercising, so why not when doing household activities? Avoid bending, twisting and lifting at the same time. Keep your lifting close to your centre of gravity. Tighten up or ‘brace’ your stomach muscles (or core muscles) when you lift. Use a good quality shovel.
6. Try to keep active: Many of us lead a more sedentary lifestyle in the winter, making us more prone to injury when we actually do something physical like snow shovelling. Regular exercise all year keeps us conditioned and therefore allows our bodies to handle the challenges that winter may present us.
All in all, if we take the time to respect the challenges that winter can bring, and we use common sense, we can go a long way into preventing sometimes-debilitating injuries, and before we know it, spring will be at our doorsteps!