Take Caution this Winter: Avoid these Common Causes of Winter Back Injuries

‘Tis the season for joy, fun, and…back pain? While you might not be sliding down chimneys like the big guy, there are still plenty of ways to experience winter back injuries.

You might not think of winter as prime time for neck and back injuries. After all, many of us are more active in the summer months. When you are housebound in cold weather, are there really that many ways to get hurt?

Unfortunately, injuries happen at all times of the year—not just when the weather gets cold. But cold weather injuries are common, especially when people get busy, distracted, and overwhelmed in the season’s hustle and bustle. We see many injuries from slips and falls, improper lifting, and sudden twists or strains.

At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we want you to enjoy the winter, free from back injuries. Should you experience an injury or mishap, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll help you get on the path to recovery in no time. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling like your jolly self. In the meantime, keep your back healthy by avoiding these common causes of winter back injuries.

1. Shoveling Snow

In December, January, and February (and sometimes into the spring months), we see many winter back injuries. One major cause is shoveling snow! In Wisconsin, our heavy, wet snow is difficult to lift. People go outside to clear the driveway, and either lose their footing or simply take a wrong turn.

If you must shovel snowy sidewalks, the first step is to wear sturdy shoes with good traction to avoid cold-weather injuries. Look for boots that fit comfortably and offer plenty of stability to keep your feet firmly on the ground. Bundle up and shovel regularly and don’t let snow build up until it gets too heavy to move. Spread ice-melt on any icy patches before you venture out to shovel.

When you start shoveling, be sure to avoid winter back injuries by focusing your strength from your legs. Push the snow rather than lifting and twisting. Use an ergonomic shovel with a handle that feels comfortable to your body. As you shovel, take frequent breaks and don’t push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

2. Hanging Lights

Another common source of winter back injuries is from falls. We all want to make our homes festive and beautiful. So what do we do? We haul out a ladder from the garage and perch precariously to string lights on the gutters. With wet shoes and uneven surfaces, a slip and fall is almost to be expected, which is why they’re amongst the most common causes of cold weather injuries.

Don’t be left hanging from the gutter! Always use a proper ladder set firmly on the ground. Enlist the help of a partner or two to hold the ladder in place while you climb – holiday lights and trimmings aren’t a solo project.

It may feel less convenient, but descend the ladder every few feet, rather than leaning and reaching. Move carefully and have your partner hand up supplies to you, so you can keep both hands on the rails as you climb. An even better approach? Use a projector or lit decorations that stay nearer to the ground. With so many decorating options these days, there’s no reason to put your safety at risk.

3. Heavy Lifting and Decorating

As you deck the halls, avoid winter back injuries that come from heavy lifting. When we’re moving around furniture to make room for the tree, or hauling boxes of decorations down from the attic, we can easily experience a back or neck injury.

If you need to move furniture, use special coasters designed to slide under each piece’s legs. From there, you simply push the furniture around the room without lifting and straining. Always enlist the help of a friend or family member before you try to rearrange furniture (even if it seems like a small job). Many injuries occur because people try to go it alone.

As you bring boxes out of storage, be sure to carry small loads, one at a time. Once again, be sure to request help as you bring out the tinsel and trim. Know the limit of what you can comfortably carry and stick to it! Please don’t attempt to haul it all in one trip, or you may wake up tomorrow with winter back pain!

4. Winter Sports

Another common cause of winter back injuries comes from our favorite winter sports. We often see injuries in amateur, student, and even professional athletes, during this time of year. Football is a contact sport, which can lead to injury. Basketball is another sport with dynamic movement and frequent changeups, leading to ankle, knee, wrist, and even back injuries.

But winter back injuries can occur in other cold weather sports and activities as well. Skiing, sledding, and skating can result in accidents that can cause winter back pain and discomfort. When you fall on snow-covered ground, you may not immediately feel an injury, so listen to your body and notice anything that doesn’t feel quite right.

Even indoor winter sports can lead to back injuries. Bowling, curling, and sports that involve lifting and bending may exacerbate back and neck issues. Again, pay attention to the way you’re feeling. Always adhere to proper form and choose a weight you’re comfortable lifting.

Get through the holiday season injury-free by taking steps to avoid these common sources of winter back injuries. Should the unexpected occur, we’re here to help. Reach out to our back and neck specialists at OHOW to schedule a consultation. We’ll have you moving into the new year without pain!