Slipping & Sliding – Winter Safety and Preparedness

Unfortunately, there are a large number of injuries related to the change in the outdoor climate. Something as simple as going to the grocery store or clearing your sidewalk can be hazardous. This article will quickly give some quick pointers on prevention of some common winter related injuries.

A slip and fall on ice can result in a devastating injury such as a fractured hip, concussion, shoulder dislocations/ fractures, and wrist fractures just to name a few. Many of these falls can be prevented. The goal of the following is to list some strategies to decrease your risk of a serious slip and fall on slick, icy surfaces:

Slow Down: Take an extra moment to secure your footing, scan your surroundings for obvious icy terrain, avoid sudden changes in direction, and be practical of how you’re carrying items in your hands. When stepping out of a car, assess the surface, consider getting both feet down on the ground and then standing up out of the car. When walking, be on the lookout for terrain that will provide more grip: cinders, grit, sand, and de-icers such as salt. If walking outdoors at night, consider a small flashlight if the area is not well-lit. Did I mention slowing down?

Footwear selection: Avoid leather or smooth soled shoes in winter conditions. Many shoes designed for winter have rubber compounds in the sole that are designed for cold conditions and can grip better.

Better Traction: Consider some sort of shoe-aide such as: boot chains, Yaktrax™, Stabilicers™, or similar shoe attachments. These are advantageous in that they can be removed easily from your shoe once you enter indoors. If walking outside exclusively, one can even find online resources on creating your own dedicated pair of outdoor studded shoes with #10 hex-headed sheet metal screws from a hardware store placed into the sole of your shoe.

Snow shoveling is a repetitive activity that can cause muscle strain to the lower back and shoulders. Back injuries due to snow shoveling are more likely to happen to people who may not know that they are out of condition. Following these tips can help you avoid injuries:

  • Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls.
  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier.
  • Be sure to take care to bend your knees, lift with your legs rather than your back, and step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting. This will help prevent “next-day back fatigue.”
  • Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements. Keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.
  • Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling: stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backwards slightly for several seconds.

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