The streets of West Michigan are covered with snow and ice. Salt trucks and snowplows have begun their seasonal schedule. Though the snow is picturesque and provides great coverage for a day on the slopes, OAM would like to share some insights on how to stay safe this winter while enjoying this West Michigan Winter Wonderland.
Winter brings to mind snow blowing and icy roads. Much like raking leaves and mowing the lawn, clearing snow and de-icing are necessary chores and part of required maintenance when living in Michigan. But here are some tips to help you use caution while keeping up with the white stuff.
Shovel early and shovel often. If you can, try tackling the snow when it first starts to fall, you’ll have a much lighter load to work through and less time exposed to the icy elements. Snow shoveling isn’t a marathon, if you push yourself too long or too hard, you may end up with an injury. Pace yourself. If we are expecting heavy accumulations, head out periodically, and clear regularly. This will help prevent too much snow from building up in your driveway, thereby saving you from more physical strain on your back, knees, and arms.
Dress in light layers. The key to proper warmth is to wear well-ventilated and water-repellent clothing. Cover your head (most of your body heat escapes through the head) and protect your hands and feet with thick gloves and socks. Most important, have the right footwear. Shoes with good traction and slip-resistant soles will help prevent sliding, slipping, and possibly injury.
Like any workout, you need to warm up. People tend to forget, but clearing snow or salting the sidewalk makes physical demands on your body. It’s a workout, and warming up your muscles may save you a severe backache the next morning, or worse, a possible strain or sprain. Doing a quick 10-minute warm up stretch will help reduce the risk of injury and next-day regret. And don’t forget – much like a workout, you can get dehydrated when working outside in the winter. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and rest as needed. No one wins a prize for clearing walkways the fastest.
Find the right equipment for clearing snow. One size of clothing doesn’t fit all and it certainly doesn’t work with snow shovels. Make sure you find a snow shovel that is appropriate for your height; this helps avoid excessive straining when clearing off your walkway. There actually is a right way and a wrong way to shovel. If you can, push the snow to avoid lifting. If you can’t avoid lifting the snow, try to use the same concept as you would when lifting a box – do so with your knees by squatting. Never lift with your back. Move snow in small amounts since snow is heavier than we may think and there is no reason to put that much pressure on your back and joints. We also don’t recommend throwing snow over the shoulder or to the side, because twisting the wrists and back with that much weight on your shovel may cause problems. Remember these important points before you begin clearing out the driveway with a shovel.
In our next post we will discuss important safety points to keep in mind when using a snowblower.
If you have any questions regarding how to stay safe when being outside this winter, don’t hesitate to call our OAM staff for additional guidance: 616-459-7101.
Insights and information courtesy of Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center.