During this time of year, I see an influx of patients coming into my clinic because of seasonal activities. Here are some tips to avoid common injuries during this time of year.
1. Pick the right shovel and practice shoveling the “right” way
Even before heading out to clear the snow off the driveway, make sure you have an ergonomic shovel. How do you know if you have an ergonomic shovel? First off, it need to be the right height. If you’re standing a shovel beside you, it should reach just below your chest. If your shovel just as tall as you are, you’re likely going to be bending at an unhealthy angle. Secondly, pay attention to the head of the shovel. The wider, the better. This will distribute the weight of the snow over a larger surface area and make shoveling easier.
Next is the technique. Here’s the key: you want to avoid bending and twisting. It may not be intuitive, but you want to move as a unit. So, if you have a shovel full of snow, instead of planting your feet and twisted your upper body to move the snow, move your entire body, keeping the shovel in front of you.
Lastly, make sure you take your time. It may be cold out there, but rushing through the task can lead to sprains, strains or chronic pain flaring up.
2. Be strategic when changing your winter tires
I’ll preface this by saying it’s always best if you can get someone to help you. I realize this is not always possible, but if you are able to get an extra set of hands, it goes a long way.
When lifting tires, the closer you can keep it to your body, the better. This is why it’s best to hold the tire vertically, with the rims to each side (rather than horizontally, with the rims facing the ceiling/floor).
Once you’ve got hold of the tire, go slow and avoid extreme bending. Make sure you contract your core and bend your knees during movement. Thisgoes for all heavy lifting.
3. Keep moving!
Sounds like a no brainer, but movement is key. During the winter, many people are not as motivated to go outside and this means they can be less active. If that’s the case for you,try to make an effort to keep your joints moving while staying indoors.
For instance, in the morning, right when you get up, take some time to stretch. Many injuries happen first thing in the morning because you’re not warmed up. Something as simple as bending down to put on your socks can lead to a back spasm. Try incorporating a stretch routine. This can include exercises like reaching toward the ceiling, circular movements of the shoulders and lifting your knees while sitting at the edge of the bed.
This will help increase lubrication and blood supply to the joints. Then, when you start your day, you’re not as stiff and less likely to get injured.