Winter Wonderland Hazards

69667877 - snowWinter Wonderland Hazards

As I sit to write today’s health tip I am looking out my window at the remnants of our third December snow—an unusual amount of wintry precipitation, this early in the season, for Long Island, NY.

At the forecast of snow, some respond with joy and others, with dismay. If you are the one who must shovel, then you are likely dreading the white stuff. If you are a student, then WOOHOO—school may be cancelled and then you can sleep late and enjoy an afternoon of winter sports!

Either way we all have one thing in common: we must eventually venture out into this winter wonderland of snow. And here is where we may run into trouble if we are not careful. There are three dangers that come to mind when the temperatures drop and the snow accumulations rise. A bit of forethought could help you avoid months of pain and rehabilitation.

#1 FROST BITE

Depending on the wind chill factor, exposed skin can become damaged rather quickly. “Bite signs” include prickling sensation, numbness, white, hardened, waxy skin patches. So, make sure highly susceptible areas (ears, nose, fingertips and toes) are fully covered, well insulated, and kept reasonably dry.

#2 BACK INJURY

Over my career, I have treated many a patient who, after a day of shoveling, has “thrown their back out”. Their injury is usually the result of either poor lifting technique, repetitive bending without counterbalancing with backward bending, or laboring long after your protective muscle power has been exhausted. Should you find yourself shoveling, here’s my advice:

  • Lift snow loads with your legs (bend your knees), not your back.
  • Do not lift and twist at the same time. (Keep your hips facing the direction you are throwing the snow.)
  • Shovel in “sessions”. Give yourself an indoor “time out”, during which you lie, face down, on the floor for five minutes, then prop up on your elbows 3x 30 sec. Rest lying down, not upright/sitting (this will give your discs and your muscles a better environment in which to rest up).

#3 HEAD INJURY

When hitting the slopes (or steep hills) this winter think head gear. If the unwelcomed event should occur in which your head decides it too wants to “hit the slopes” or a tree, for that matter, a snug helmet will save the day…and your brain!

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