Boost Your Winter Safety to Prevent Winter Injuries

A nice dust­ing of snow can turn your neigh­bor­hood into a win­ter won­der­land. But it can also make it the place of unin­tend­ed injuries. 

From ice to snow to the cold­er weath­er, win­ter can bring injuries you may not think of until you’re recov­er­ing on your couch after the fact. While you may know how to treat an injury, there are actu­al­ly steps you can take to pre­vent them as well. 

This win­ter, focus on safe­ty to pre­vent injuries by pay­ing atten­tion to these 4 dif­fer­ent parts of your body.

1. Save Your Back While Shoveling 

If you live in areas that receive a lot of snow, shov­el­ing snow might be a neces­si­ty of life. When you do it year after year, it can become pret­ty rou­tine. While shov­el­ing snow may seem like just anoth­er thing many of us do each win­ter, it’s a win­ter activ­i­ty that can also lead to seri­ous injury. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, just because shov­el­ing snow can lead to a range of injuries, doesn’t mean you can just stop doing it. What it does mean is it might be time to think about ways you can accom­plish this task in a safer way. 

Fol­low these steps to shov­el snow — and pro­tect your health — this winter:

  1. Stretch first: In the same way that you stretch before exer­cis­ing, stretch­ing before shov­el­ing snow can help you avoid strain­ing or sprain­ing your muscles.
  2. Shov­el often and early: While it can be annoy­ing to get up mul­ti­ple times dur­ing a snow­fall to shov­el, doing so means there will be less build-up and lim­it the amount of snow you’re try­ing to lift at one time.
  3. Lift with your legs: Don’t lift with your back. Put less snow in your shov­el, and lift with your legs to pre­vent back strain.

While these steps are a great way to pro­tect you from future injuries, they aren’t help­ful if you have an exist­ing injury or health con­di­tion that makes shov­el­ing unsafe. If you are phys­i­cal­ly unable to shov­el snow, these steps may not be help­ful for you — but you still have options to get that snow cleared. Don’t be afraid to ask a neigh­bor or fam­i­ly mem­ber to help you out — and do not attempt to shov­el snow if you have severe back issues. 

2. Keep Safe­ty in Your Heart All Winter

In addi­tion to pro­tect­ing your mus­cles while shov­el­ing, it’s also impor­tant to pro­tect your heart. 

Shov­el­ing and oth­er win­ter activ­i­ties or sports can be very tax­ing on your body. This kind of intense work can cause a heart attack — espe­cial­ly if you have high cho­les­terol, high blood pres­sure, heart dis­ease, or have already had a heart attack or stroke before.

3. Be Good to Your Bones with Home Safety

Anoth­er com­mon place where win­ter injuries occur is sim­ply walk­ing across icy sur­faces. If you trip and fall, you might break or frac­ture a bone — and this risk goes up the old­er you are. In fact, more than 36 mil­lion falls are report­ed each year among old­er adults, and there are many more peo­ple who fall but nev­er report it.

Whether you’re wor­ried about a fall for your­self or for an aging loved one, you can make small safe­ty adjust­ments around the home and to your every­day rou­tine to reduce the risk of a win­ter injury.

To pre­vent trips, slips, and falls, you can:

  • Put down rock salt before snow­fall to pre­vent ice.
  • Be mind­ful of where you’re park­ing your car and icy patch­es in park­ing lots.
  • Watch out for cords and strands of lights that might become a trip­ping hazard. 
  • Wear good shoes with treads that can grip slip­pery surfaces.
  • Give your­self extra time to get places to allow you to walk a lit­tle slower.
  • Avoid walk­ing in dark areas where it is dif­fi­cult to see slick spots or black ice.

4. Mon­i­tor Your Mus­cle Use 

In addi­tion to break­ing or frac­tur­ing a bone while falling, you may also pull a mus­cle. Mus­cle strains are a year-round injury that can occur while shov­el­ing snow, rak­ing leaves, or plant­i­ng flow­ers — it doesn’t mat­ter what sea­son it is. They can be a result of overus­ing that mus­cle (like while shov­el­ing), or even just mov­ing it in a weird way (like dur­ing a trip or stumble). 

You may think the first thing to do for a mus­cle strain is heat, but ice is actu­al­ly going to bring you more relief and heal­ing. If you’ve pulled a mus­cle, apply an ice pack wrapped in a pro­tec­tive cloth to the injured area. You can do this for 20 min­utes 2 to 3 times a day. 

Stay Safe Dur­ing the Win­ter Months

Win­ter can be a time of beau­ty spent with friends and fam­i­ly, but it can also eas­i­ly become a sea­son of injury and recov­ery. Each sea­son comes with its own perks, but it also comes with dif­fer­ent haz­ards to be on the look­out for. 

This win­ter, keep you and your loved ones hap­py and healthy by being more aware — and more pre­pared. And if you do expe­ri­ence an injury, sched­ule an appoint­ment with your Duly health and care provider.

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