Winter may offer fun seasonal pastimes, but it can also bring cold temperatures and icy surfaces that lead to injury. When you head outside this winter, here’s how you can prevent injury:
Protect your back while shoveling snow
Shoveling snow is a common cause of back pain and injury, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Get an ergonomic snow shovel. One with a curved handle or adjustable handle length can cut down on painful bending and arching. A small, lightweight blade on the shovel can help reduce the amount weight you pick up, further decreasing chance of injury.
- Use your legs, not your back. When you reach down to shovel snow, bend at the knees without rounding your lower back. To lift the snow, push up with your legs instead of letting your back muscles do the work. Wear a back brace or lifting belt to help encourage correct posture.
- Keep your movements compact. Avoid twisting your body to the side to move snow or tossing snow with your arms extended. Always square your shoulders and face the snow you are shoveling. Carry the shovel close to your body while you walk over to the spot you want to deposit snow.
Some people may follow these recommendations and still experience back pain. To avoid shoveling snow altogether, purchase a snowblower to use or ask a neighbor for help.
Minimize your chance of falling
Slips and falls are more likely to occur during winter, due to hazardous conditions. Certain steps can be taken to minimize the risk of falls as much as possible.
- Hold for balance. Grab onto the handrail when walking a flight of stairs outside, even if the steps don’t appear to be icy.
- Apply ice melt. Lightly coat outdoor walkways and stairs with salt before and after a snowfall to reduce slipperiness.
- Wear winter boots with high-quality tread. They can help you grip the ground and stay balanced.
- Stock up on food before a storm hits. This way you can avoid going outside for groceries during hazardous conditions.
- Ask a neighbor for help. See if a person who lives nearby can bring your mail to the door and take your garbage out.
If you ever feel yourself falling, try to land on your side or buttocks. Don't fight the fall—try to roll naturally, allowing your head to turn in the direction of the roll.
Try these tips and see if they help you stay safe when you go outside this winter. Dress warmly, too, wearing several layers of light, loose clothing to protect yourself from extreme temperatures. And if you do get injured during a winter activity, seek immediate medical attention.