Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Common Injuries To Avoid This Holiday Season
Ah, the Holiday season. Not only does it bring about good tidings, but it brings on new and exciting ways for us, as human beings, to injure ourselves. Take it from a Physical Therapist who has worked with thousands of patients over the years: the holidays are ripe with preventable injury, and not just the kind of injury that Uncle Bruce sustains while trying to climb through the chimney after too many hot toddies. In an effort to help avoid injuries, I have listed some of the more common injuries we usually see over the Fall and Winter season:
Slip and Falls: It was just last year I slipped and landed flat on my back while walking down icy stairs. Remember it’s not only with ice, but watch out for those wet leaves too. Rain mixed with wet leaves can be as slippery as ice, and areas covered with leaves become tricky navigation by disguising trip-enhancing holes, cracks and bumps in walkways. Be especially careful when going down stairs on a leaf-covered route. Gravity is waiting in the background to pull you down! Lastly, lets not to forget the grand champion of all falls: those sustained while hanging Christmas lights!
Yard work: It has to be done, and most of us have neglected our once-thriving gardens, flowerbeds and lawns. Raking, lifting, squatting, kneeling and shoveling are all remarkably tough on the body; most notably the shoulders, low back/hips and knees. Throw in the fact that wet leaves and earth make for significantly increased weight and resistance, and you’ve got yourself a great chance of injury. Take breaks every 20-30 minutes, and reverse the position you’re in. If you’re crouching, stand up and walk a bit. If flexed forward, stand up and comfortably back-bend. For raking, switch sides with the arm that’s doing the pulling.
Motor Vehicle Accidents: Rain and glare make for bad visibility, slippery roads, and increased stopping distances. Throw in the fact that everyone is stressed out and frazzled while shopping, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. When driving, keep a safe distance between you and the car in front, especially at higher speeds. Avoid texting or sending pictures of your dog with those silly reindeer ears on while driving. Seriously.
Cyclists beware: As a daily cyclist, here’s a couple tips, as bike accidents tend to increase during this time of year: First, be sure to have the lights on your bike set to ‘flashing’ on both the front and rear, even during the day if it’s wet or raining. Always wear reflective clothing, especially at night or for the evening commute. Third, those tricky streetcar tracks are even harder to see with rain and glare; leaves and wet ground or leaves only makes it more slippery; Always try and cross these tracks at a right angle to avoid getting your front wheel stuck, because that happens, you’re going down!
Sedentary Positions: Because of the change in climate, we tend to be a lot less active, typically neglecting walking, stretching and exercise routines. Unfortunately, we substitute this time with prolonged sitting, computer use and online shopping – bad news for those with a tendency to have neck and back issues from sustained postures. Stand up, stretch out, walk around and move every 20-30 minutes. There are apps you can download for your computer to remind you to take a break. Setting an egg timer for 20 minutes works just as well.
Sports: Football, Cyclocross and Soccer are all notorious for injury, and the daily wear and tear of the long season begins to add up as days start getting colder. Remember to gradually warm up for a longer period of time as the temperatures drop and don’t neglect your rest- Did you know that over 50% of high school injury is related to overuse? Get extra rest and your body will recover that much faster!
Kevin Schmidt is a licensed Physical Therapist and owner of Pedal PT in SE Portland. He can reached at 503.894.9038 or go to www.pedalPT.com for more information.