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Avoid Common Winter Injuries

Winter weather can bring potentially serious injuries if we are not careful. We should always be aware of our surroundings no matter the weather, but in winter it is more important to be aware and take precautions. Needless to say, avoiding winter injuries can save you from lost time at work or from recreational pleasures.

Slip-and-Fall Injuries

Winter can be a beautiful time of year but it presents challenges, especially for those over 40 years of age. Most individuals reach their peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30. By the time we reach 40, many of us slowly begin to lose bone mass; weakened bones are in danger of breaking if a fall occurs.

Fresh air and spectacular snowscapes can make it tempting for many to enjoy a winter walk. For many individuals walk their dog once or twice a day, regardless of conditions, because it is not an option. Freezing temperatures and hidden icy patches present hazards. Hip fractures, head injuries, and wrist fractures often occur during winter storms. When trying to force the body to stop from an imminent fall, smaller injuries can occur such as bruising, sprained ankles, and pulled muscles.

Across Ontario, every day, dozens of people visit an emergency department for injuries from a fall involving ice and snow, especially older adults.

Tips to Avoid Falls:

  • Do not be in a rush; take slower and shorter steps.
  • Be sure you are wearing proper winter footwear with excellent quality rubber tread for traction.
  • Always be aware of the conditions of what you are walking on, even ice can form on fields.
  • Be especially careful walking on the side of the road during and after a storm. Sidewalks covered with plowed snow, and if conditions include poor visibility, can potentially create an accident scenario in which you get hit. If moving vehicles are close by and you are walking on a slippery surface then stop. This will eliminate the potential of you falling into harms way.

Snow Shoveling

Shoveling snow poses another serious injury risk throughout the winter season. Soft tissue injuries of ligaments and muscles, especially in the lower back, are common from the heavy lifting, bending and twisting.

Those with heart trouble know that the mere act of walking in heavy snow can put a significant strain on the heart, let alone shoveling it. In fact, those over the age of 55 are four times more likely to experience a heart problem while snow shoveling.

Do not think that a snow blower is the answer to snow shoveling safely. Snow blower injuries are more common than many realize because people reach in to un-jam snow blowers resulting in the loss of fingers and in some cases, a hand. Always turn the machine off and use a broom handle or another tool to clear a stuck snow blower.

As for snow shoveling, lessen your chances of getting hurt while shoveling snow. Be sure to:

  • Pace yourself and if need be take frequent breaks.
  • Wear proper winter boots.
  • Push snow as opposed to lifting. Avoid twisting and tossing snow over the shoulders.
  • Listen to your body and stop if you get short of breath, start sweating profusely, or experience chest pain.

There is more information on our website: Snow Shoveling Safely; be sure to give it a read.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

It happens, someone is standing at a corner waiting to cross the street, a car hits a patch of ice causing it to swerve into the innocent bystander. Don`t be that person. When walking outside, even waiting at a bus stop, always be aware of your surroundings. Those who keep their head down, and are wearing ear buds focusing on their cell phone will have a greater chance at being that person who gets hit as opposed to the person who is paying attention and can jump to safety.

Frost Bite and Hypothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a core body temperature less than 35 degrees C and results from prolonged exposure to cold environment, drugs, and underlying pathological conditions. In Canada, there are 8,000 deaths a year due to hypothermia. In fact, cold temperatures kill about 20 times as many people worldwide as hot temperatures do. This was an issue addressed by CBC in a May 2015 article titled: Cold deemed deadlier than heat when it comes to weather deaths.

Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. It is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin. Skin that is exposed in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable; however, it can occur on parts of our body that is covered, but not sufficiently.

Generally, when you start shivering, it’s your body telling you it’s time to seek warmth. Being proactive by dressing in warm, dry layers, and wearing a hat and gloves is advisable.

If you are driving, always keep extra warm clothes in your vehicle. If you wear shoes, be sure to have boots in the car. Accidents happen and you could literally be left out in the cold for a long period of time. If you are not prepared then you may end up with more troubles than just the accident itself.

CHIRO-MED REHAB CENTRE: REMINDERS

While shoveling, in the event you start to feel heaviness or discomfort in the arms, neck or chest areas, stop shoveling immediately. If it does not subside right away, call 911. Other signs of heart attack to be aware of include a prolonged shortness of breath, dizziness, faintness, excessive sweating, or if you begin to vomit.

Do not work yourself to the point of exhaustion because this contributes to injury, hypothermia and to possible frostbite.

Should you sustain any soft tissue injury while shoveling – stop shoveling right away! If you cannot move or are in serious pain, call 911. If the injury isn’t as severe, then see a health professional as soon as possible. Should there be any inflammation, apply ice right away.

Established in 2007 by Dr. Behfar Sanjari, Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has a proven record of commitment providing quality health care services in the Greater Toronto Area. Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has qualified professionals who can provide chiropractic and physiotherapy to help with winter injuries. We have clinics located in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, visit Chiro-Med online or call 905-918-0419 or 905-235-2620 for more information.