by Dr. Jesse Lewis, PT, DPT
The winter season is officially here. That means holidays, family and hot chocolate. Unfortunately, it also means snow, ice, and cold. Inevitably, every year we see these lead to injury. Winter brings its own unique chance for injury. The good news is that there are ways to minimize the risk and stay healthy this winter.
Wear Appropriate Footwear
Leather bottom or high heeled shoes mixed with ice is asking for trouble. Shoes with a rubber bottom will give you more grip and traction on slippery surfaces. If your fashion sense doesn’t allow for a rubber shoe, bring a change of shoes and use the rubber-soled shoes for the trip and change into the nicer shoes when you get there safely.
Take Smaller Steps
Can you picture in a cartoon or a movie when someone is walking on ice and all of a sudden their feet are in the air and they are flat on their back? That’s what happens when you take big, fast steps on ice. When you take smaller steps, your center of gravity stays over your feet and you can control your movement better. So if you see an icy patch, slow down and shorten your steps.
Shovel Early, Shovel Often
Back injuries and snowstorms go together like peanut butter and jelly. A 4-day old peanut butter and jelly. There are a number of ways to keep your back healthy during a snowstorm though. One of the easiest to do is to shovel more often. Instead of waiting for the storm to be over, try to shovel every inch or every hour or two. This will keep the load on your shovel lower and will prevent you from having to shovel for an hour or two in a row. Your back will thank you.
Keep Your Hands Free
Slipping and falling always happens when you least expect it and at the worst possible time. If your hands are full and you are carrying too much in your arms, you’re that much more likely to end up on your back if you lose your balance. Your body uses your arms to help control your balance. If they’re loaded up with groceries or gift bags, you don’t have any way to compensate. You should also always have a hand free for a hand railing on any icy stairways. It might take a little more time, but take an extra trip and keep a hand free. It will be worth the extra time when you are injury free throughout the winter.