Protect Your Joints This Winter
A winter storm sounds cozy if you can stay indoors, but snowy conditions pose hazards on icy roads and around your home. Studies show increased falls and joint injury after heavy snowfall, so talk to your orthopedist before shoveling snow or participating in strenuous winter activities.
Shoveling Can Cause Body Strain and Dangerous Falls
In 2018, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found medical facilities treated 137,000 people for shoveling or snowblower injuries. Many people see shoveling a driveway as good exercise, but there are many reasons why it could be harmful:
- Cold air makes it harder to breathe and work, which puts additional strain on the body.
- Cold air makes breathing and working harder, putting additional strain on the body. Shoveling puts a heavy demand on shoulder, hip and knee joints and can cause pain during and after physical activity.
- Icy and slippery conditions can also make you more prone to a fall. According to the CDC, three million older people annually visit the ER for a fall. Hip fractures are particularly dangerous, and 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling.
Safety Tips for Shoveling Snow or Doing Winter Activities
Sometimes, you do not have a choice whether to shovel your driveway or sidewalk. However, there are many ways to be safe while being outside in the cold winter months:
- Take time to stretch and warm up your muscles.
- If you already feel stiffness or joint pain, do not engage in strenuous activity.
- Let a family member or friend know where you will be going and how long you will be outside.
- Ask a neighbor to help you with your outdoor task.
- Wear several layers of clothing and remove them if you get too warm. Sweating can make you get cold faster.
- Do not leave areas of skin exposed to the cold.
- Avoid walking on ice.
- Consider using rock salt, a chemical de-icer or sand instead of shoveling sidewalks, steps and driveways.
It is essential to know the symptoms of two other dangerous conditions:
Hypothermia is a severe condition when someone is exposed to extreme cold. Warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, fatigue, memory loss, slurred speech, confusion and fumbling hands.
Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing. The ears, nose, cheeks, fingers, chin and toes are more prone to frostbite, and damage can be permanent. Warning signs of frostbite are white or yellowish skin that feels numb, firm or waxy (Centers for Disease Control).
Call Your Orthopedist
If you are considering doing strenuous outdoor activities, contact your orthopedist. Do not ignore pain in your shoulder, hip, knee or ankle because it will probably worsen. An orthopedist can diagnose any joint problem and suggest treatment options. Sometimes, a minor surgical procedure is necessary to relieve pain or restore joint mobility. Call today to make an appointment.