With winter fully upon us, we typically spend less time outdoors. This decrease in outdoor activities doesn’t mean there’s any less of a risk for injury when stepping outside. Especially after a fresh snow or rain, there’s reason to be extra careful and know what to do in order to avoid injury.
Professional Physical Therapy’s, Tobias Bartosiewicz, PTA, CPT, SFMA, shares with us the below tips for staying this winter:
Understandably, many musculoskeletal injuries which occur during the winter months in colder climates are due to falls on ice and slippery surfaces. This can include fractures to the arm, wrist, pelvis, and ankle, as well as sprains, meniscus tears, and head trauma. Low back and shoulder strains also occur due to poor body mechanics when shoveling snow or performing other outdoor activity. Any injury can be a life-altering experience resulting in frequent pain, time missed from work, loss of financial income, and loss of independence. That said, here are some strategies and exercises to help avoid falls:
Many of us have extremely busy lives and often lose sight of the present moment, especially with the constant bombardment of chimes and dings from our mobile devices. Breathe and pay attention to your surroundings. You may not be aware of a new patch of ice, a slippery grate on the sidewalk, or a fresh pot hole which lurks ahead. Don’t worry, you can wait to scroll through TikTok videos later.
Plan ahead and slow down
Lack of planning along with the unexpected occurrences of life often cause us to rush and may result in poor movement, falls and strains. Relax. Saving twenty seconds to rush out the front door is not worth the twenty plus weeks to recover from a fracture.
Some light movement and mobility work will help prepare your body for daily activities. Even taking five minutes to stretch before getting out of bed can do wonders.
Practice good body mechanics
When performing activities such as lifting, carrying, reaching, and changing positions, remember to keep slight tension through your abdominal muscles, legs, and shoulders before and during movement. If you are shoveling snow, use your hips to help you lift (see videos below). This will spare your low back of any undue stress and will also help avoid the awkward grunting and squinty face that usually accompanies a strain.
Know your limits and ask for help
If you have been sitting on your couch all winter binge-watching movies and expect to suddenly jump up to shovel eight tons of snow for five hours without incident, you may want to reconsider. Take breaks, and if an activity is beyond your physical capacity, please ask someone for help.
Use assistive devices
Traction spikes on shoes and a walking stick may give you added stability on snow and ice, but be careful as spikes can also be slippery on tile surfaces and subway stations.
While these tips are important (and may sound like something your grandmother once told you), what truly makes a difference in preventing injury is having a good foundation of strength and stability. Regular strength training will not only increase one’s resistance to physical trauma, it can also increase bone density and decrease risk of fractures.
The following are some simple exercises you can try at home to maintain your balance and strength before it becomes an issue:
Morning and Evening Stretches
Lower Body Exercises
Though certain situations cannot be avoided, using these tools will help serve as part of a proactice approach to avoiding catastrophe and staying healthy. If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort, you may be a candidate for physical therapy. Schedule an appointment with a Professional physical therapist by finding a location near you.