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Winter Is Coming….Here are some helpful tips for the next few winter months

Don’t let the picture fool you…Winter is already here.  And if it turns out to be anything like last winter, we’re going to be in for a lot of window scraping and driveway/sidewalk shoveling.

Here are a few tips from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) regarding ways to help protect yourself through the next few winter months:

  • Use a shovel with a shaft that lets you keep your back straight while lifting. The length of the shovel should come up to your chest to reduce forward bending.
    • A short shaft will cause you to bend more at the back to lift the load.
    • Using a shovel that’s too long makes the weight at the end heavier.
    • Shovels with a bent shaft are easier on your back when used correctly.
  • Bend your knees and lift with your legs rather than your back.
  • Lift smaller loads rather than heavy shovelfuls.
  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin.
  • Avoid excessive twisting, pivot and turn your feet and body in the direction of your throw rather than rotating from the trunk.
    • If able, push the snow rather than lifting and throwing.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.
  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling. Stand up straight and walk around periodically.
    • Perform backward bending exercises during breaks to reduce feeling of “stiffness” from the excessive forward bending of shoveling (see picture below)

A Quick Word on Snow Blowers:

With snow blowers becoming more prevalent, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

* Snow blowers vibrate which could lead to or exacerbate musculoskeletal conditions
* reduce vibrations by taking frequent breaks.
* Avoid bending forward while operating the machine
* Don’t rock the snow blower if it is stuck, as it could lead to neck, arm or back injuries.
* Make sure that your arms are slightly bent at the elbows and wrists are straight.
* Always Wear ear protection ; wear eye protection if it is windy out

Top 10 Precautions for working in Cold Weather:

1. Wear 3 layers of clothing: protect the head, hands and feet.
2. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm, sweet beverages.
3. Increase caloric intake. Working in heavy protective clothing expends more heat, so 10-15% more calories are required.
4. Take periodic breaks to warm up.
5. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and medications that inhibit the body’s response to cold or impair judgment.
6. Avoid the cold if you are becoming exhausted or immobilized.
7. Shield your work areas from drafty or windy conditions.
– Seek a heated shelter if you have prolonged exposure to a wind chill.
8 . Work during the warmest hours of the day and minimize activities that decrease circulation.
9. Learn the symptoms of cold-related stresses: heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness and euphoria.
10. Work in pairs to monitor one another and obtain help quickly in an emergency.

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