As we step into the cold season, most of us are gearing up for the upcoming festivities and probably forgetting, in all that excitement and anticipation, that winter is also the season for the most pains and injuries. The severe winter weather decreases the flow of blood to the muscles, causing them to immediately tighten up and shorten their length, in turn reducing our range of motion and increasing the risk of injury.
But that’s not to say you should let winter keep you and your family indoors all season. With a bit of preparation and care, you can easily avoid these five most common winter injuries:
1) Slips and falls
Americans spend a lot of time walking, and this season, they have to battle snow and ice hazards even on their most frequent commutes. By far the most threatening winter hazards, slips and falls can cause serious injuries, from hip fractures to traumatic head injuries, to people of all ages, but especially the elderly.
Prevention: Waiting inside the house for the snow and ice to be removed from walkways and building entrances may be the wise thing, but if you really have to get outside, make sure to:
- Wear appropriate footwear with rubber or neoprene soles that provide better traction than regular shoes
- Plan your trips ahead to find the best route to your destination; avoid speeding or traversing areas with a lot of snow
- When having to walk on a slippery surface, try to bend forward to reduce your stride
- Since most accidents happen when exiting or entering cars, hold on to your door car for extra support until you are on safe ground
2) Traumatic brain injuries
As exciting as it may be to go outside and enjoy the array of sports winter has to offer, having fun at high speeds on slippery surfaces can sometimes lead to serious injuries. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, playing hockey, and ice skating can provide excitement for the entire family, but they also put both children and adults at increased risk for traumatic head injury (TBI).
- Always wear protective equipment and replace it after a fall, since some helmets are only made to withstand a single major impact
- Be familiar with your surroundings and do not allow your children to venture outside of your range of vision
- Don’t push your limit and ask the help of a professional if it’s your first time on the slopes
- Ask for medical help immediately upon noticing symptoms of concussions such as dizziness, fatigue, confusion, vomiting, numbness, or decreased coordination and balance
3) Muscle sprains and strains
Walking, shoveling, and performing physical activities in cold weather make us more prone to injury. Ligaments and muscles in the knees, shoulders, neck, and wrist joints are the most commonly injured during the cold season.
- Light exercises and stretching before heading to the slopes will warm up your muscles and make them less injury-prone
- During shoveling, stay warm and hydrated and don’t exert yourself beyond your typical limit; shovel light loads and be careful with rotation when unloading them to prevent back injuries
- It’s crucial to rest when you become tired, as fatigued muscles do an even poorer job of protecting connective tissues, thus putting your bones, cartilages, and ligaments at increased risk for injury
4) Wrist and elbow injuries
For snowboarders and skiers, thumbs, wrists, and elbows are at the highest risk of injury. Outstretching the hands to catch a fall or forgetting to let go of the ski poles during a fall can result in wrist sprains and torn ligaments.
- Practice falling on your forearm in order to protect your more delicate joints and help disperse the impact force
- Wrist guards have been proven to significantly decrease the impact of falls for those performing winter sports, so don’t hit the slopes without them, especially if you’re a beginner
Walking, shoveling, driving, and performing sports are already activities with a high risk of injury, but they can be downright dangerous when performed in winter conditions. Despite your best intentions, if you end up with a muscle strain, a twisted ankle, or a concussion this season, get medical assistance and consider seeking the help of your local chiropractor to put you on your feet as soon as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.