Staying Healthy During the Winter

Staying Healthy During the WinterWinter is on its way and it is important to know how to stay healthy during the winter.  We all know to wash out hand frequently and to cover our mouth and nose when we sneeze or cough.  But, there are many other ways to accomplish good heath in the winter months.  Below are some general health tips and don’t forget your feet and ankles.

When Shoveling Snow

If you are going to shovel snow this winter make sure you follow the following advise:

  • Stretch / warm up for 5- 10 minutes
  • Pace yourself
  • Dress appropriately
  • Do not wait until the snow accumulates to much, waiting to shovel will significantly increase the weight and the stress of the activity
  • Watch for ice
  • Wear slip resistant boots or shoes

In 2007, more than 118,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually.

Here are a few more tips to follow when shoveling snow.

  • Lift smaller loads of snow, rather than heavy shovelfuls. Be sure to take care to bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back.
  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. A short shaft will cause you to bend more to lift the load. Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier. Step in the direction in which you are throwing the snow to prevent the low back from twisting. This will help prevent “next-day back fatigue.”
  • Avoid excessive twisting because the spine cannot tolerate twisting as well as it can tolerate other movements. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible so that you are lifting with your legs.
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically to extend the lower back.
  • Backward bending exercises while standing will help reverse the excessive forward bending of shoveling: stand straight and tall, place your hands toward the back of your hips, and bend backwards slightly for several seconds.

Avoid Slips and Falls

Falls on icy surfaces are a major cause of ankle sprains and fractures, and it’s critical to seek prompt treatment to prevent further damage that can prolong recovery. Even a simple ‘tweak’ of an ankle or mild sprain requires medical attention.  With one of these less severe injuries, the individual may be able to walk.  Which leads the person to mistakenly believe that medical attention is not required.  I have had patients walk into my office a week or two after the injury; and after examination they have broken their ankle or torn a ligament.  Both of which are serious injuries that require immobilization at the least. Continuing to walk on an injured ankle can worsen the damage and lead to instability, pain and arthritis down the road.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid slipping and falling this winter.

  • Park close to the building and in well-lit areas so you can see the surface you are walking on.
  • Take your time and pay attention. Take short, flat steps, shorten your steps and walk at a slower pace.
  • Many slips and falls occur during entry and exit from vehicles. Be careful and hold on to the vehicle for support.
  • Wear proper footwear. Boots with rubber treads are a must.
  • Walk on sidewalks and stay off paths that are not maintained in the winter. If there are handrails.
  • Be careful when taking the trash out to dumpsters. This area may be slippery, and it may not be cleared of snow and ice.
  • Take extra time and care when carrying heavy objects.
  • Take advantage of floor mats to remove moisture from the sole of your shoes.
  • Ice can easily hide under a light dusting of snow. Just because you don’t see the ice doesn’t mean it’s not there waiting for your unsuspecting footfalls.
  • Be aware of overhead hazards! Falling icicles and chunks of ice kill hundreds of innocent people each year.

We are all busy and sometimes we don’t take the time to be careful.  We also, do not take the time to take care of ourselves.   Staying health during the winter should be one of our top priorities.