Sunday, December 1, 2019

Are You Physically Ready for Winter?

By: Darryl Gomes  R. Kin., CAT(C), D.O.M.P., D.Sc.O.

During the past couple of weeks, winter appeared earlier than we expected. The temperatures dropped below zero into the double digits, and we experienced a couple of significant
snowfalls. Outside of getting the snow tires on the car, how ready are you for winter and how are you preparing for it? Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure you get through winter safely.

Dress Appropriately
  • Check the temperature before you head out. Don't just assume blue skies and sunshine mean it will be warm outside. Make sure to read the wind chill temperature as well, as that will give you a better sense of the ambient temperature. 
  • You should dress in layers depending on how long you will be out in the cold and the type of activities you will be doing. Whether you are snowboarding or shovelling the driveway, it is important to dress warmly. 
  • Make sure you have boots and gloves that will keep your extremities warm. For those that experience circulatory issues (such as Raynaud's Syndrome), you need to be extra careful and ensure your fingers and toes stay warm. If necessary, you may need to use chemical heat packs to keep them warm.
  • You may need to apply sunblock or lip balm to protect your skin and lips depending on how long you will be outside. Sunglasses may be required if you are going to be out in direct sun in order to avoid snow blindness.

Recognize the Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia

  • Frostbite occurs when skin has been exposed to the cold for too long. You may experience a burning, numbness or stinging sensation in the affected areas, and prolonged exposure may lead to skin damage. Body parts such as your ears, nose and cheeks are most susceptible to frostbite. 
  • If you suspect you have frostbite, get out of the cold as soon as possible. 
  • Allow the tissue to warm up gradually. Don't put direct heat on it and don't rub the skin. The tissue can be fragile, and you may end up damaging it. 
  • If the burning, stinging or numbness sensations don't go away despite making these changes, you may need to seek emergency care.

Shovelling is Exercise

  • Depending on the amount of snow that needs to be cleared, shovelling can be a gruelling workout. Your muscles need to work hard in order to push and toss snow around. Therefore, you need to treat shovelling like you would any other exercise.
  • You may need to take a few minutes inside the house to do some squats, lunges and torso twists in order to get your body ready for shovelling.
  • Bend your legs when you pick up and throw snow. Do not bend over or throw snow with your back. 
  • Especially if there has been a heavy snowfall, you should section your driveway/sidewalk into small areas and deal with them one at a time, rather than trying to push the snow all the way from the top to the bottom of the driveway.
  • Take breaks, especially if the snow is wet and heavy. Even if you don't have any type of cardiovascular issues, taking a few minutes to catch your breath is always a good idea. 
  • Know your limitations and don't overdo it. You may need to rely on family members, neighbours or hired help to clear your driveway. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it, especially if you suffer from cardiovascular problems.

Dealing with Falls/Injuries

  • Whether you slip on a patch of ice walking to work or fall from catching an edge on the ice while skating, falls during winter are a common occurrence. Knowing how to take care of your injuries is important.
  • You will need to ice down any bumps or bruises you get. Make sure you have skin sensation (you can feel the difference between warm and cold along with the sensation of pressure) before you start icing the area down. Keep a cool damp towel between the skin and the ice pack to prevent frostbite. Keep the ice on for about 20 minutes or until the area feels numb. Do not re-apply cold until you can feel sensation in the area again.
  • Fractures are a common injury with slips and falls. If the pain you are experiencing is not resolving or gets worse after you ice and rest the area, you may need to seek medical help.
  • It is not uncommon to hurt your back or experience other types of pains from shovelling or other winter activities. Whether you have existing chronic injuries that are exacerbated by exercise, or receiving acute injuries, it is important to make sure you get them treated. 

So Where Does Osteopathy Fit in?

Be proactive and get treated now! If you suffer from poor balance, why wait for the snow and ice to arrive and increase your chances of falling/injury during winter? Take the time to treat your musculoskeletal issues, in addition to improving your balance with proprioceptive specific exercises. 

Osteopathic treatment can help to remove a lot of the existing problems that you currently have or may discover over the course of the winter.
  • Spinal misalignment can not only create musculoskeletal problems, but can lead to visceral problems. As signals from the spine to the different organs get impinged, the function of the organs can be affected. This is why someone who has back problems can develop such things as acid reflux or elimination problems. The corollary exists, where visceral problems can create spinal problems which may be the cause of back problems. 
  • Falls can create direct problems (such as falling on your pelvis) that can create imbalances in your body. If they are not treated, they can create compensations in the body that can lead to long term problems such as spinal misalignments. Bone bruises can affect the function of the bone and do need to be treated.
  • Pre-existing injuries can be compounded by new injuries. This is why activities such as shovelling can make you feel worse, even if you didn't think you overexerted yourself.
  • Colds and flus are synonymous with winter. Your body is constantly working hard to fight off infections. Ensuring you are eating properly and staying hydrated is important for providing your body with necessary nutrients. Osteopathic treatment can help to keep the body working efficiently, just like a winter tune up would for your car. 
If you have any questions about how osteopathy can help you, call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book a free 15 minute consultation or email me at:

Stay active!