Snow and Ice are Not Very Nice: Tips to Preventing Injuries

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man shoveling snow out of his driveway

Winter. It can indeed be a most wonderful time of the year … until you’ve lost a battle with a thin sheet of ice or are knee-deep in snow trying to shovel out a vehicle.

The chilliest season on the calendar can be many things—cozy, festive, stunningly beautiful. And dangerous. Snow and ice-related injuries send many thousands of people to the hospital each year, often for mishaps that can be avoided with proper preparation. Follow these tips to avert the types of injuries that can ruin an otherwise joyous and spirited time of the year:

Shoveling

While tedious, shoveling is also inevitable. And you’ll most likely be doing it at least or once twice before the spring thaw. Whether it’s to get your car out before work or the kids need a pathway to the bus stop, shoveling is an exasperating necessity. Luckily, there are a few precautions that can be taken to avoid being a part of the more than 200,000 snow removal injury cases that are recorded each year.

Acquiring an appropriate shovel is a basic and helpful tip to follow. Since every person is built  differently, a shovel that may make the job trouble-free for one person might not do the same for another. As such, it’s essential to test out shovels to find one that works best for you. At a minimum, purchase a shovel with a curved handle, which reduces the amount of potential painful bending that needs to be done. It’s also wise to use a shovel made of plastic instead of metal, since they’re lighter and won’t be as unmanageable with snow packed onto them.

Once you have the proper tools, you’ll want to follow some techniques to make your shoveling experience safer. When possible, it’s smartest to push snow instead of scooping it up. Avoiding this motion puts less strain on your back and lowers risk of injury. In addition, kneeling down to move snow is distinctly more effective than bending over. Repeating a bending motion too often increases the chances for strain. Once you’ve crouched to gather the snow you’d like to move, be sure to not toss it over your shoulder, a twisting motion that places unnecessary pressure on the lower back.

If feasible, using a snow blower is the most ideal choice for safe snow removal.

Driving

The road can be a scary place during the winter months, especially during and after snowfall. To assure that you and your fellow drivers are safe, it’s best to take precaution at all times. Pacing yourself is crucial. During inclement weather, it’s better to be a methodical traveler. Driving too fast markedly raises the risk of losing control due to slippery roads beneath your tires.

Since your stopping distance might differ dramatically when you’re driving in nasty weather, always allow yourself enough time to stop while the roads are wet. Even better, unless it’s an emergency, it’s a good idea to avoid the roads altogether when they’re icy or snow-covered. It’s best to be safe than sorry in situations that could lead to fatal consequences.

Ice

Ice is arguably the biggest culprit lurking behind winter injuries. It can be extremely difficult to spot, especially at night and on blacktop, and it can cause a whole host of damages. During the colder months, keeping salt or sand stocked up is advised. If you always have it at hand, you don’t have to worry about being caught off guard when snow begins to fall. Sprinkling some salt on steps, walkways and driveways is an easy, yet highly effective tip for avoiding falls.

Remaining aware of your surroundings is helpful as well. Always make sure to keep an eye out for black ice and take your time when walking. Black ice can be particularly tricky for its tendency to blend in with the color of the surface. Running on ice likely wouldn’t end well, but taking small, alert steps can lower the chances of an accident. It’s recommended to ditch long strides in favor of a shuffling motion whenever ice is present. Finally, when navigating the outdoors at night, be sure to locate well-lit areas that allow for better visibility of what’s ahead and what’s under your feet.

If waging the annual war with Old Man Winter has taken a toll on your body and your physical well-being, contact JAG-ONE Physical Therapy today to find out which of its 10 locations is most convenient for you, and which of its services can help you start feeling like yourself again.