Pull your back while shoveling snow? Slip on a patch of ice and fall on your bottom? Unfortunately, even minor winter weather events can have you scrambling for pain relievers. The most common winter injuries include:
- Auto accidents from driving in inclement weather (snow, ice, freezing rain, etc)
- Muscle strain from scraping ice off your car or shoveling snow
- Shoulder, wrist, head, hip, and back injuries from falling on ice or snow
- Injuries from winter sports (i.e. skier’s thumb)
If brutal winter weather has you slipping and sliding wherever you go, keep these tips in mind for staying safe and injury-free:
Stretch It Out
Pulling the soft tissues in your lower back is easier to do than you may think, especially when you are hunching, twisting, and heaving as you shovel snow from your driveway. Same goes for winter sports like ice skating, hockey, skiing – if your muscles are tense and your joints stiff, you’ll lack the flexibility and range of motion to help you best prevent an injury. Warm up your muscles with dynamic stretching prior to any physical activity; dynamic stretching may include activities like a brisk walk, yoga, or jump squats.
Avoid Venturing Out in Inclement Weather
If you can help it, and you truly can most of the time, simply avoid going outdoors to drive, walk, or play when weather is especially slick, slushy, or icy. A simple fall on the ice can result in something as debilitating as a torn rotator cuff or fractured hip. Driving in snow can limit your visibility and put you at higher risk for skidding off the road or hitting another car too. If you do have to get out to run errands or work, use a 4-wheel drive vehicle if you have one or ask a friend who does for a lift.
Wear Proper Clothes and Safety Equipment
Not only will wearing warm layers and winter accessories like scarves, hats, and gloves help prevent you from developing hypothermia when spending time outdoors, but wearing proper clothing and safety equipment can also prevent injury. Helmets when playing winter sports are a must for preventing traumatic head injuries (like a concussion), and even something as simple as a good pair of winter boots can help keep you on your feet when shoveling snow or playing outside with your kids.
Especially if you are accompanying older adults or children outside in inclement weather, practice extra caution when navigating across parking lots, sidewalks, and other common flat walking surfaces which tend to accumulate patches of ice (despite being salted). Offer extra support to seniors either with a mobility aid or simply by holding their arm as they walk; and encourage kids to walk slowly and try to hit areas that appear dry or have clearly been salted.
Seek Medical Attention
In the event that you do pull your back or slip on the ice and slam your wrist or shoulder into the ground, promptly seek medical attention with your doctor or the local urgent care. A minor injury which is not properly treated could be further exacerbated by your winter weather activity leading to a much worse diagnosis down the line. For non-fracture injuries like low back strain or a minor rotator cuff injury, your doctor may simply recommend rest, ice and heat therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers, and orthotics (like a shoulder brace which aids in recovery from a rotator cuff injury).
While you can’t control the bad weather winter brings your way, you can control what you do in it. Simple steps like staying indoors, stretching, and wearing appropriate clothing and safety equipment can go a long way in keeping you safe and injury-free.
By Joe Fleming
who is the President at ViveHealth. He is passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life. He enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. With a goal to inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life’s challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health and aging to social narratives, motivational pieces and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.