How to Avoid Common Winter Injuries

Picture of a woman shoveling snow on a sidewalk.As winter approaches, you may be looking forward to wearing your coziest outfits, drinking hot cocoa, and celebrating the holidays with your loved ones. Unfortunately, despite the many joys this season offers, it also increases the chances of sustaining certain types of injuries. Below, PhysicianOne Urgent Care discusses some of the most common winter injuries and explains what you can do to avoid them.

Sprains & Fractures From Slips & Falls

When the temperature drops, ice starts to form on sidewalks, driveways, and outdoor steps, inevitably leading to slips and falls. Even minor tumbles can cause bumps and bruises, and more severe ones can result in sprained joints and broken bones. To avoid slipping and falling on ice, you should:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so that you don’t end up rushing.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and have good grip on their soles (if you live in an especially snowy area, you may want to invest in ice cleats for additional traction).
  • Avoid wearing a backpack or carrying other heavy objects that could make you more likely to lose your balance.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets while walking—not only will this help you maintain your balance, but it will also allow you to brace yourself if you end up falling down.
  • Avoid walking over snow and ice whenever possible.
  • Take small, slow steps and point your toes slightly outward when walking over ice.
  • Use handrails whenever you walk up or down stairs or ramps.

Muscle Strains From Shoveling Snow

If you live in an area that gets a fair amount of snow during the winter months, you understand how important it is to keep your walkways and driveway shoveled—failing to do so could potentially lead to a fine, and unshoveled snow is more likely to get packed down and turned into ice, making it even more of a hazard. Unfortunately, many people end up straining muscles when shoveling their property. To avoid injuring yourself while shoveling snow, you should:

  • Perform gentle stretching exercises on a daily basis.
  • Try to shovel shortly after snow has fallen, since snow becomes heavier the longer it sits on the ground.
  • Use a shovel with a curved handle (which helps keep your back straight) and a small plastic blade (which helps reduce the amount of weight you’re lifting).
  • Warm up your muscles before heading outside (for example, by jogging in place for a few minutes).
  • Use proper posture when shoveling—keep your back straight, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend at your knees, and hold the shovel close to your body.
  • Scoop smaller amounts of snow to avoid overexerting your muscles.
  • Lift the snow using your legs (instead of your back) and tighten your abdominal muscles while doing so.
  • Throw the snow forward rather than over your shoulder.
  • Use a smooth motion while shoveling and avoid twisting movements.
  • Take regular breaks to avoid an overuse injury.

In the event that you do strain a muscle, you should stop shoveling immediately and give yourself enough time to heal before shoveling again, even if that means calling on a friend or neighbor or hiring a snow removal company to finish the job.

Where to Receive Treatment for Winter Injuries

If you end up spraining a joint, breaking a bone, straining a muscle, or sustaining another non-life-threatening injury this winter, you can turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care for treatment. We have locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, all of which are open every day of the year during extended hours. What’s more, we offer appointment scheduling, walk-in care, and 24/7 telemedicine services. Click here to find out whether we have an urgent care center near you.

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