Winter Injury Prevention

Feb 14, 2018

Outdoor activities can be a great way to get some fresh air and exercise during the long winter months. However, with the drop in temperatures, icy surfaces and never ending snow, this time of year can lead to an increased risk of winter related injuries. Here are some helpful tips to prevent some common injures during the winter season.

The most common winter injuries are often related to slips and falls on icy or wet surfaces. Unfortunately these types of injuries can result in a variety of injuries including wrist and hip fractures, joint sprains and muscle strains. Utilize these tips to prevent a slip on the ice.

Prevention Tips:

  1. Wear appropriate footwear: Heels, dress shoes and flip-flops are not designed for the winter landscape. Try and wear footwear with thick rubber sols with good strong tread. This will help increase the surface contact and traction your foot has with the ground. If possible, spread sand or rock salt on high traffic areas to improve traction.
  2. Slow and steady: Many slips happen because we are rushing out the door or into our vehicle without awareness or where we are placing our feet. Give yourself extra time to get from point A to point B. Shorter; slower steps will help you maintain your balance and stability on the icy sidewalks.
  3. Be familiar with your surroundings: When walking or exercising outside, always stay on marked trails to avoid unexpected steep hills or unsteady icy patches. Always stay alert and avoid distractions such as walking while using your phone to text or talk. Pay attention to the forecast and try to prepare yourself accordingly.
  4. Balance training: Practice makes perfect. Your physical therapist can assess and prescribe an appropriate home exercise program to help you build balance, strength and stability for navigating the snowy, icy tundra.

Other frequently seen winter injuries are related to snow removal. Our Alberta winters can be relentless and snow shoveling is a job we can’t escape. Typical injuries associated with this task often involve joint and soft tissue injuries of the lower back. However, when performed properly, snow shoveling can be a safe and effective exercise. Follow these tips to make this job as painless as possible.

Prevention Tips:

  1. Ergonomic shovel: If possible purchase an ergonomically designed snow shovel with a curved or adjustable handle. These features will allow you to stand more upright and adjust the height and reach as needed. Try choosing a shovel with a plastic blade as this will significantly reduce the weight of the overall load.
  2. Warm up and pace yourself: Cold and stiff muscles are more prone to injury. A warm up should focus on activating all of the specific muscles that will be used during the activity. Dynamic movements such as partial squats, shoulder circles and a few trips up and down your household stairs can be a great way to warm up and stretch the muscles. Taking your time, pacing yourself and taking frequent breaks are all essential in preventing snow shoveling related injuries.
  3. Proper lifting techniques: A full snow shovel can weight up to 20-30 lbs! It is important to follow proper technique to prevent injuries when repetitively lifting this amount of weight. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, keep your knees slight bent, keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Try to push the snow straight ahead and avoid the motion of lifting while twisting. Keeping your core muscles tight while shoveling will help stabilize and support your lower back.
  4. Listen to your body: Take frequent breaks and stop shoveling if you become short of breath or have any type of pain.

If you have any questions related to winter related injuries please do not hesitate to contact one of our physical therapists at Active Physio Works. Whether your looking to resolve a current winter related injury or looking to prevent one, our physical therapist will perform an individualized comprehensive assessment and prescribe a home exercise program that best fits your specific goals! Call us to book in today at 780-458-8505.

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