Winter Injuries

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from TLR. I’m here with Dana Ranahan. She’s the owner of the chief physiotherapists that Body Works Physiotherapy in North Vancouver, BC, many time winners of best physiotherapists in North Vancouver. And we’re going to talk about winter injuries. You seeing a lot of winter issues these days Dana?

Dana: Hi Mark. Yes, we are. I mean, with all the snow and slippery conditions that we’ve had the last few weeks, we are seeing a lot more injuries related to those conditions, that’s for sure.

Mark: So what kind of things do people need to kind of remember that, you know, Hey, this is what happens in winter. I gotta be careful.

Dana: I think we need to just give ourselves a little bit extra time in the day. You got to scrape the car and be careful not to slip. You might need to save a little bit of time to shovel. And I think if we’re rushing about is when we tend to try to do things a bit too quickly and we’re more likely to hurt ourselves. So that’s kind of the first and foremost thing.

And then second would be to check that conditions, you know, is it really icy? Like the other day I went out early in the day, the whole road was super icy. So you’re going to have to be careful that it’s pretty easy to say, slip and break a wrist or something like that. So before you go anywhere in a rush, be sure to check the conditions and then you can be prepared for it more readily.

Mark: And what about choice of footwear? How much of a difference is that?

Dana: Footwear it makes a huge difference. I think if you, you have like a decent pair of boots or running shoes that have like nice tread on the bottom, that will give you a little bit more traction. However, if you’re on ice, I kind of feel like you need the little crampon type things that attach onto the bottom of the shoes. If you’re going to be walking and they have ones that are very low profile that are meant for walking in ice, but also emblem microspikes if people tend to go snowshoeing in snowy conditions.

But then the little small ones are really easily to get a Canadian tire or, you know, that kind of store and you can wear it around it. Even if you have to shovel, sometimes it’s safe to put those on so that you don’t wipe out while you’re out there to kind of clear your sidewalk.

Mark: I did it myself last year.

Dana: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re handy tool to have, and you just slip them on your shoe and then take them off. So they’re really not very cumbersome at all for most people anyways.

Mark: What about shovelling? I’ve heard that can cause a lot of problems.

Dana: Well, I think the problem is for me too, especially as we get older, it’s easier to forget that our back was not as, but a lot of us are sitting at a job you know, we’re at a computer, very sedentary as some of our day-to-day work. And then we go out and start shovelling these heavy loads. And there’s a few key things to pay attention to is, you know, what is the quality of the snow? Like we talked about checking the conditions for icy or slippery conditions. Same thing goes with the snow in the lower mainland here, Vancouver area around Christmas, it was quite cold.

So the snow is very fluffy. And so it was a little easier to shovel without having so much weight to it. But then as the rain in a warmer temperatures came in, it starts to become quite heavy. Well, now you’re at risk of having a lot heavier loads that you’re trying to push and lift and sort of throw let’s say, and our back mechanics or our body mechanics are going to be really key.

So you may want to even like warm up, stretch out a little bit, just so you’re moving a little bit better. Maybe do it in little chunks, if you can so that you don’t do it all at one go. Especially if the snow is heavy and then really watch your body mechanics, so that as you’re going in, you’re using your legs and trying to engage your core muscles to support your back so that you’re not putting as much stress on your back itself. I think back injuries are the most common thing we would see with shovelling.

Mark: What other kinds of slip and fall type injuries are you seeing?

Dana: Well it’s very common in this weather, especially with the icy conditions we’ve had lately to have people fall. And usually you end up putting out a hand or something like that, and you’ll fall on an outstretched wrist. So really common to get wrist fractures, they call that a FOOSH injury or fall on an out stretched hand.

So kind of, you can imagine yourself FOOSH, and landing on your wrists. So that’s probably one of the most common ones. But you can really fracture anything. But I think wrist fractures are the most common and we aren’t seeing as many of those right now, but usually if someone breaks their wrist, they’d be, you know, put in a cast or a splint depending on the severity of the injury.

And we’ll be seeing them in a few weeks because you can get very stiff and weak after being in a cast. So we haven’t seen quite as many of those in the clinic, but that’s probably the most common injury that we see. Occasionally people will fall back and so you can get a concussion or neck injury, whiplash type injury too, so.

Mark: What about the elbow?

Dana: Yes, definitely, elbow. You kind of have elbow fractures, like if you don’t get the handout stretch, but sometimes you might not, especially if you have a shovel in hand or something you can fall. And so you can have some pretty traumatic elbow injuries as well. Especially if you don’t get overuse injury from the shovelling, right, so depending, you can have both.

Mark: So being aware of the conditions becomes very paramount for prevention, basically.

Dana: Yes, exactly. Very paramount for prevention and then planning yourself extra time. And then just to being smart about it, it’s like, you know, you try to do it all at once, you’re going to likely overdo something and hurt something or have a slip and fall. Because you start to get a bit tired and then you’re not as strong on your feet, let’s say as you’re doing something. So important to just be, be smart and think about what you need to do, and in what order..

Mark: If you’ve injured yourself because of winter, the guys to see in North Vancouver, are Body Works Physiotherapy. You can book your appointment online at or you can call them (604) 983-6616 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They’re busy. Thanks, Dana.

Dana: Thanks Mark, take care everyone.