This time of year usually brings snow, ice, freezing rain, extremely low temperatures and, along with this, a lot of safety hazards for you. This is the time when I start to get a lot of calls because of all of the weather-related injuries. From shoveling snow to slipping on the ice, you may find yourself one of “the injured.” Here is some advice to minimize your risk.
You have all heard by now that you should be careful when shoveling to protect your back. Shoveling is a difficult task for even the healthiest of people. You are bending forward (first bad stress on your back) to get down to the snow, then lifting the heavy load of snow (second bad stress on your back) and then twisting to release the load of snow over your shoulder (third bad stress on your back). If you must shovel (that is you do not or will not own a snow blower, you can’t find someone else to do it for you, or you enjoy it) follow these tips to minimize the bad stresses on your back.
First, bend your knees while you are bending forward to reach the snow. Second, bring the loaded shovel close to your body when attempting to lift it. Third, step around to dump the load instead of twisting. Also, listen to your body. If you begin to feel pain or fatigue, then take a rest. Also, if you are injured, weak, off-balance (or in pain to begin with), take even more precaution. You are more likely to injure yourself even more by the act of shoveling or by falling on the slippery snow and ice. If you have not exercised in some time or have any cardiovascular conditions (high blood pressure, shortness of breath, heart or lung problems, etc.), be sure to take several rests to allow your heart to accept all this activity!
If, after shoveling with even the best form possible, you still manage to hurt yourself, you most likely are suffering from strained muscles. This can be quite painful. Rest should help relieve your pain in one to two weeks. If it persists longer or causes you intense pain, tingling, numbness or weakness, then consult a professional for an evaluation.
Another weather related cause of injury is slipping on the ice. Commonly, the wrist, hip and/or spine are injured with falls of this nature. FOOSH injuries (Fall On Out-Stretched Hand) can be severe and cause fractures or severe sprains and strains. No matter how balanced you are, ice can take out anyone! Keep your walkways clear and salted and be cautious for black ice. Take the same precautions in parking lots, at others’ homes and in public places. Wearing shoes or boots with good traction may help some. I have even seen people wearing attachments for shoes (like they have for tires) to prevent slipping.
I could spend a lot of time addressing the subject of driving in bad weather, but I will just say this: slow down. There is no need to prove your mastery of driving skills when the roads are covered in snow and ice. Take your time—are you really in that big of a hurry to get to work? You’ll get there safely and without risking others’ safety by driving more slowly.
Sledding and snow tubing are some other ways to sustain major injuries. If you’re going to get hurt, it might as well be while you are having fun, right?! Avoid going on your stomach/face first. Otherwise, choose hills that are not near streets or trees and steer clear of others!
Even though this year hasn’t been typical thus far, we still have plenty of winter left to go! Should we see snowfall, take these tips and make it a safe storm!