Southeastern Michigan had it’s first snow fall last night. It was just a dusting, about an inch, so fluffy and dry that my neighbor gave up on the shovel and opted to use his leaf blower instead! I pushed the white stuff off the sideway, lifting the shovel with my foot at the end of runs to empty it for the next blade-full. As I worked, my mind begain to ponder all the ways a manual therapist needs to be extra cautious in the winter time. Our bodies, especially our hands, are our money makers. If we get injured, we don’t get paid. No compensated sick days for us, unless you have really great insurance.
For those of us who live in snowy climates, shoveling is one chore that can take it’s toll if we’re not careful. Lifting heavy wet snow is rough on the lower back, shoulders and hands. Even the neck get’s involved if the jaw is clenched while lifting. The old adage of lift with your legs rings true, as well as keeping the pay load at about half of what you “can do”. It may take you longer, however your body will thank you for it later. Be mindful as you work, check in with your body to see where you are holding tension. A relaxed body used less energy and effort, and a tense muscle injures more easily. Take frequent breaks, go inside to warm up, and rehydrate often. The body needs water in the winter as much or more than in the hot weather. Wear something over you nose and mouth, so that the air is wamed before it enters your airways. This keeps the bronchial tubes flexible and not stiff, so oxygen can be used by the body.
Staying warm is vital, keeping those portable heat packs available could be the difference between healthy hands and painful frostbite. I’d only been at the dog park for a half hour when my fingers began to throb yesterday. I tucked my phalanges into the metacarpals within my gloves, and felt some relief. Only fifteen minutes later we left, to find my fingers red and painful. I turned the heater vents on high, and warmed my digits. That brief brush with frostbite scared me straight, I will never go on an adventure outside without some form of heaitng device for my fingers again!
Dress for the occasion. Using layers will trap the warmed air from your body near your body. There are coats that have special “air vets” so if you get too hot, you can insantly cool off just enough to not overheat. Hats and scarves are en vogue again, thank goodness. There was a time when being “cool” meant saving our hair from “hat head”, which more imporant than being warm!
Skiing, skating and simply walking can be dangerous for the MT. Falling onto the cold hard ground can cause irreparable damage to your wrists if you fall wrong. Colles’ fractures occur at the distal end of the radius, with dorsal displacement of the wrist (looking like a dinner fork), usually by falling with the hand extended on a hard surface. In the Martial Arts, we practiced falling the correct way, so that when an event occured, our body would act on the rehearsed memory and not the fear based protective way that injures. Keeping the wrists straight with the slbows slightly flexed will help you slap the ground with your forearms, transferring the impact to a greater area. Slipping backwards, practice landing on the biggest area of your flat back, with your chin tucked into the neck to protect the head from impact. During side falling, your shoulder should be flexed and on impact, the arm should slap the ground at the same time as the hip hits the surface.
Awareness is crucial for safety. You can usually see icy surfaces, however the dreaded “Black Ice”, clear ice that looks like the surface it covers, is sneaky. Tread lightly and soundly, make certain your foot is solidly on the ground before you take another step forward, and take your time. Being in a hurry is the fastest way to an ice created injury. By all means wear the cute boots/shoes with the 2″ heels, dressy happy footware- when you get inside after you take the sensible treaded warm boots off! Don’t be a fool for fashion!
Stay safe, warm and able bodied all winter long!