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Routine Winter Activities That Can Cause Real Problems

November 20, 2015 - TCO

Routine Winter Activities That Can Cause Real Problems

Last winter may have been mild by typical Minnesota standards, but let’s not forget that just four years ago we experienced the fourth snowiest winter in Twin Cities history. There’s no doubt Minnesotans are tough. We embrace frozen moustaches, bundling up our kids for the bus, and walking on frozen lakes. But once the temperature drops, roads and walkways get slippery, and snow piles up around us, the winter can quickly become a challenge. 

Suddenly, routine tasks can turn into potentially dangerous activities. Every winter we treat patients in our Orthopedic Urgent Care Walk-In Clinics who have seriously injured themselves in accidents that may have been avoided by simply being prepared. Stay safe, think ahead, and prepare yourself for the following activities this winter, before they cause real problems.


Shoveling snow, especially after a large storm, can be very dangerous, in particular for older adults. Lifting too much heavy snow can lead to pulled muscles, slipping and falling can result in broken bones, and strenuous activity after months of not exercising can put intense strain on the heart. Last winter, 18 people across the Chicago area died from causes related to shoveling snow.

This winter, take your time, stretch out before starting to shovel, lift with your legs (not your back), and if you start to feel dizziness or tightness in the chest, stop immediately.


Snow Blowing/Throwing

Snow blowers/throwers were the cause of an estimated 9,000 hospital visits in the US last year. Like shoveling, snow blowing can lead to slipping, falling, and overexertion. But the biggest danger remains the razor sharp blades.

Never stick your hand near the auger, even if the machine is off. Ice and snow may have caused it to jam, but there is still torque that can release and cause the blades to spin. In the event of a jam, turn the machine off, engage the clutch, and use a stick or similar long tool to clear it. Gloves are NOT enough protection.


Roof Cleaning, Snow Removal, Ice Dam Removal

Minnesota roofs can be especially treacherous during the winter. Anyone who has dealt with ice dams knows it’s not fun! The key to preventing ice dams and water damage is to remove the snow from your roof. However, this can be challenging for many homeowners.

If you have a flat roof, and it’s easily accessible from the interior, you may consider shoveling it. Most roofs, however, are sloped, and can be difficult to reach. Use a roof rake, and pull snow off the eaves. Do NOT use a ladder in snowy or icy conditions, as they are not guaranteed to stay in place in inclement weather.


Exercising Outdoors

Exercise is critical to maintaining overall health, especially in the winter. For the really horrible days you can try the 7-Minute Workout indoors, but eventually everyone needs a breath of fresh air. Go for a light jog, take the dog for a long walk, go snow tubing or sledding at the local park. Just make sure you’re being careful.

Clothing: Never underestimate the importance of wearing proper clothing outside. Make sure your extremities are covered, especially the sensitive areas of your body that are susceptible to frostbite: nose, fingers, and ears. Wool is a great material because of its insulating properties, which is why wool socks are a great choice.

Hydration: Don’t forget to stay hydrated in the winter! Underneath all those layers you’re still sweating and losing water. In fact, skiers and snowboarders are at a higher risk of dehydration than summer athletes, because the heavy clothing causes more sweating than normal. Be sure to take water breaks well before headaches or dizziness set in.

Sunscreen: The sun’s UV rays (which we diligently protect ourselves against during the summer) are still present during the winter. In fact, our exposure to UV rays is extremely high during the winter because the Earth is actually closest to the sun during our winter. So even though it’s cold, if you’re going to spend time in the sun make sure to wear sunscreen. Plus, the smell of coconuts might just remind you of warmer days ahead!


Staying Inside

Truthfully, one of the most dangerous things a person can do during the winter is never leave the house. Inactivity for months on end can be extremely detrimental to a person’s overall health and well-being. We understand how difficult it can be to overcome the cold weather and short days, but there are great ways to stay active even in the dead of winter.

Utilize these 6 Foolproof Ways to Stay Motivated to Work Out, and just remember that everything counts! From walking to snowshoeing, Free Fitness Classes to a ski pass, any activity during the winter is better than none at all!


At Twin Cities Orthopedics, our goal is to help everyone live happy, healthy lives, all year round. Please be safe this winter, and remember that if an injury does occur, we’re here to help. TCO Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinics are open 8am-8pm, 7 days a week at 5 convenient metro locations, to help you get back on your feet.