Winter Injuries: Avoiding the Slip and Fall of Snow and Ice
Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.
By Genevieve Cunningham
Winter brings change and beauty into our lives. It forces us indoors to spend time with family and friends. It brings cold winds, ice, and snow. It’s beautiful and magical in its own way. Many look forward to winter and the shifts that come with it. But winter isn’t always easy. The cold can be bitter, biting deep into our bones and leaving them aching and in pain. The darkness can be depressing, leaving exhaustion and sadness in its wake.
The winter also brings the opportunity for illness and injury. Besides the very common cold and flu, winter delivers an increase in slips, falls, and back and neck injuries. Luckily, there are steps that we can take to protect ourselves from injury and speed up healing to get us through the cold winter months.
Common Winter injuries
Most winter injuries occur because of the conditions. The temperature drops, which makes our muscles and bodies feel tight. There is snow and ice on the ground, but we still have to get up, go to work, exercise, and remain active. Things still need to be done, even if the weather is less than agreeable. And this opens the door for accidents and injuries. But what, exactly, are the statistics?
- Slips and falls - Approximately one million Americans slip and fall every year. As the temperature drops, the occurrence rises significantly.
- Back injuries - Back injuries in winter often happen when you have to shovel snow or when you’re working outdoors in frigid temperatures. The cold weather can keep the muscles tight, leading to muscle spasms and various other discomforts.
- Neck pain - Neck injuries often come along with back injuries. It might be a pinched nerve, a simple crick, or overworked muscles. No matter the specifics of the injury, neck pain makes everyday life more difficult.
These certainly aren’t the only winter injuries. If you participate in winter sports such as snowboarding or skiing, there is also the risk of sprained joints, pulled muscles, and more. However, aside from sports injuries, these are the most common non-sport injuries that may affect any person, no matter of age or physical condition.
Does Cold Weather Affect People of Different Ages Differently?
Although accidents and injuries can happen to anyone, cold weather can definitely affect people differently depending on their age. Older adults are more sensitive to extreme temperatures than their younger counterparts. The older that we get, the less body heat we create naturally. It becomes more important to use blankets, coats, and heaters and such to regulate body temperature.
This lack of ability to stay warm increases the risk of both illness and injuries in cold weather. Not only are older adults more likely to slip or fall in winter, but the risk to their health is greater with these injuries as well. An aging body is less flexible and has bones that are losing strength. Although a child may fall down and hop back up without harm, an older adult may find a joint sprained, a bone broken, or a serious injury to the spinal cord.
The aging population isn’t the only group with a heightened risk through winter. Those who spend a lot of time working in the cold are also at a greater risk. Working in cold temperatures has been linked to a much higher rate of back pain, especially long-term pain and chronic low back pain. This can be for people whose job requires them to be outside, people who enjoy exercising in cold weather, and even for people who simply do the necessary winter preparations around the house. The musculoskeletal pain from cold temperatures lingers, making it a problem both during the cold and long after it has warmed up.
Tips for Working Outside in Winter
Most people enjoy staying indoors in cold temperatures, but that’s not always possible. We still have things to do, cold or not. Although we can’t completely avoid the cold weather, there are plenty of things we can do to protect ourselves.
- Wear the proper gear - If you’re going to be working outside, you need to wear warm clothing, gloves, a hat, and non-slip shoes. This keeps the body warm and lessens the chance of slipping.
- Slow down - You probably won’t be able to move as quickly in extreme cold as you would in normal weather. Slow down on purpose. Don’t hurry or rush, as this just increases the risk of both accident and injury.
- Maintain an exercise routine - It’s tempting to shut down all attempts at exercise through the winter, but don’t. Exercise is as important as ever through the cold months. In fact, it can help us keep our muscles loose and warm, helps ward off seasonal depression, and improves overall health. Just make sure to exercise safely, preferably inside if the option is available.
- See the chiropractor - Winter is a great time to get regular chiropractic care. Because winter injuries can be serious, chiropractic care is a logical choice. Regular care may help your body stay loose and limber. It may also help with the healing process should an accident or injury occur.
- Pay attention to your body - If you’re feeling cold, warm up. Go inside. Don’t ignore your body’s signs in an attempt to be tough. This is especially true if you’re exercising or working outside. The winter is brutal. If you don’t have the right gear, don’t do it. If you’re shivering, get warm. Protect your body by listening to it.
Chiropractic Care in Winter: Back Injuries, Prevention, and More
Protecting yourself in winter is important. If we can avoid injury and illness, that’s certainly the preferable route. And if injury or illness does happen, we want to be prepared. This need for both prevention and ongoing care is what makes chiropractic care the perfect choice for the winter months -- and all year long.
But why? Chiropractors focus on the health of the spine. This means providing spinal manipulations to patients to keep the body aligned, balanced, and strong. The spine is central to the body, both literally and figuratively. We need it to be healthy.
When slips or falls occur, chiropractic care can help in the healing process. The chiropractor may be able to help with minor injuries to the joints directly. Or if need be, they may direct you to another specialist if the injury is severe and needs attention. But even in this scenario, regular care from the chiropractor may help maintain the health of your body as a whole, which can potentially speed up the healing process.
Chiropractic care may also be the perfect choice for prevention. If your body is healthier -- more flexible, more mobile -- you may be able to avoid some winter injuries altogether. And wouldn’t it be nice to make it through winter unscathed?
Winter is tough. It’s beautiful and magical, absolutely, but difficult as well. If we want to not only survive, but thrive, we must be prepared. Prepare your body with winter safety tips so that you can enjoy all that winter has to offer and to do it pain- and injury-free.
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