If there is one thing we know after years of serving patients in Colorado, it is that colder weather always creates an uptick in common winter injuries. Winter brings snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, all of which present ample opportunity for accidents to happen. At Accelerate Health, we know that no one wants to spend the winter stuck on the couch healing from a severe injury. To help you get to spring both pain- and injury-free, we are sharing a few of the most common ways to hurt yourself in the winter and tips for avoiding them.
1. Snow Shoveling Injuries
Snow shoveling injuries occur often in the wintertime. A recent statistic shared by Children’s Hospital noted that there are nearly 11,500 injuries caused by shoveling snow that require a visit to the emergency room each year. That number does not even consider the number of snow-shoveling injuries that do not result in a hospital visit or are handled by healing at home. At a glance, snow shoveling appears like a simple task. You simply push the shovel around to clear the snow, right? Unfortunately, that level of confidence is usually the first mistake. It takes a lot of exertion to clear a heavy Rocky Mountain snow from the driveway and sidewalk! The chore is associated with:
- An increased risk of heart attack for adults over 45
- Straining your back, neck and shoulders
- Breaking bones
- Scrapes and cuts
How to Prevent a Snow Shoveling Injury
Consult your doctor if you are an older adult. Snow shoveling is strenuous. Make sure your body is up to the task before you venture out this winter.
Take it easy. Go slow and move the snow in shifts. The Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure gives residences an entire day to remove snow. If you are a business owner, your need to clear space will be more urgent. Enlist help. If you can only clear a small portion, select an area that will allow each passerby to walk safely in front of your business.
Stretch. It is not silly to stretch before shoveling snow. Some studies have compared the chore to running on a treadmill. If you’re going to put your body through its paces, warm it up first to prevent strains, sprains and tears.
Wear proper shoes. Falls are incredibly common while shoveling. Wear hiker spikes or shoes with heavy tread to give you traction.
2. Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are also common winter injuries, particularly during ice storms or after snow has melted and refrozen throughout the day. Other falls might be caused by slipping on icy steps, and falling from a ladder or roof while performing winter maintenance. A fall caused by slipping on ice is almost always harder than a simple stumble on a dry sidewalk. This is because the acceleration our bodies gain during a slip can increase the force with which we hit the ground. It can cause your body to become airborne and also reduces your reaction time, making it more difficult to protect yourself. Common injuries from slips and falls include:
- Broken bone
- Strains and fractures in the wrists, hands and forearms
- Head injuries
- Neck and back pain
How to Prevent Winter Slips and Falls
Wear proper footwear. You want traction when navigating icy conditions, otherwise you are just like a car with bald tires.
Learn how to fall. The older you get, the more important it is that you learn how to protect your body in a fall. For example, many people who fall instinctively stiffen their arms and brace themselves with their hands instead of shifting into a protective stance. The hand, wrist, and forearm injuries we see at Accelerate Health can be pretty severe.
Watch your step. Anyone navigating LoDo after a snowstorm knows that ice can creep up in the most inconvenient places. Walk slowly and keep an eye on the ground. Ice tends to build up in shady areas or low spots, so walk on the sunny side of the street and pick your footing in snow, areas near downspouts, bridges and gutters.
3. Car Accidents
While Colorado has some of the safest winter drivers in the country, accidents still happen. Winter weather often compounds the severity of an accident for the same reasons a winter fall is more severe: increased acceleration and impact. Unfortunately, snow, ice and poor visibility also increase the chances your vehicle will be struck by another car during or after the first accident. Injury risks include:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Back injury
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
How to Decrease the Chances of a Winter Car Accident
Stay home. Unless you absolutely need to drive somewhere, it is best to stay off the road during a winter storm.
Drive slowly. Make it easier for yourself to stop and maneuver the roads by taking it down a notch. An accident will make you far later than slow driving.
Maintain brakes and tires.
Give space. Give yourself room to stop, slide, or whatever else your car may need to do.
Wear a seatbelt.
Have you recently experienced one of these common winter injuries? Do you have an older injury that is causing you pain and diminishing your quality of life? Give Accelerate Health a call to discuss your options. We are the chiropractor Denver, CO, trusts for pain management, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment, and we would love to help you.