Four Reasons That Winter Is So Hard On Our Bones And Joints

Winter can be a lot of fun. However, winter weather conditions and the activities associated with them can also lead to bone- and joint-related injuries. Stay healthy! Here are some of the main ways that winter weather can put strain on your bones and joints, and a few proven ways to deal with them.

Slipping

When the winter season approaches and temperatures start to drop, it’s inevitable that ice is on its way. Sidewalks and building steps become as slick as ice rinks, wreaking havoc on drivers and pedestrians alike. A thin layer of snow covering ice patches makes them all the more difficult to spot and easier to accidentally slip on. This drastic change in surface conditions brings along with it a high risk of ice-related injuries. Stepping out of your car unknowingly onto a patch of ice can be a day ruiner, or even a month ruiner if you are unfortunate enough to injure yourself in the process.

What is the most common reaction when someone starts to fall? Usually it involves the person extending their arms out in front of their body in an attempt to break their fall with their hands. When using this method, the impact of the fall can easily cause wrist strain or even fracture. If not treated properly, an injury like this can be serious. Letting the wrist heal incorrectly without the guidance of a doctor can lead to permanent chronic pain later in life. 

Elbows can also sustain injuries when absorbing a fall on the ice. Elbows will commonly become dislocated or fractured during a fall. An important first step when dealing with a dislocated elbow is to get it properly popped back into place. A doctor should be involved to ensure everything is healing as it should. 

“Unfortunately, wrists and elbows aren’t the only things that can be injured during a fall,” says Dr. Robert Clayburgh, a noted hand and wrist specialist who is part of Valley Bone & Joint Clinic in Grand Forks, North Dakota. “Injuries caused by slipping on the ice are extremely unpredictable due to the many ways that a person can land. It’s always best to get a physician’s opinion with these types of accidents.” 

Shoveling/Strain

For many homeowners, snow removal can be a very big job that requires large amounts of physical exertion. Since most people don’t regularly take part in rigorous physical activity, their bodies are not used to the lifting and pushing that shoveling snow requires. Unfortunately, this can lead to injuries and other forms of joint discomfort.

Shoveling requires a constant repetitive motion of twisting and lifting and provides many opportunities for something to be pulled or torn. This is exasperated by the fact that eager shovelers have a habit of trying to move too much snow at one time. As a result, muscles are overworked and injuries often occur. Lifting a snow-filled shovel above your shoulders (especially using a throwing motion) can easily lead to a joint injury in the shoulders themselves.

Unfortunately, shoulders aren’t the only thing susceptible to the effects of shoveling snow. The lower back is another area commonly injured by the downward scooping motion of snow removal. It only takes one muscle pull for your neck, back or shoulders to seize up. Joint and soft tissue injuries obtained from shoveling may seem minimal, but some may cause future problems if not addressed properly.

Skiing

During the winter months, people of all ages head to the nearest slopes to try out the fresh powder. The sport is exhilarating, but one fall can lead to a world of hurt. However, wipeouts aren’t the only thing that can cause a serious joint-related injury when you’re on the slopes.

Skiing requires a significant amount of strain on the knees. Every high-velocity twist, turn and bend puts pressure on the skier’s joints. This strain can result in knee sprains, torn ACLs and damaged menisci. While some of these injuries are more serious than others, if not treated properly, they can all lead to serious ongoing pain. 

Of course, skiing also puts strain on one’s upper body. Shoulder dislocations, broken arms/wrists and the dreaded “skier’s thumb” (where one’s thumb gets caught and pulled away from the hand, causing a ligament tear) are all common injuries resulting from falls during skiing. 

“The slopes are a lot of fun, but it pays to be prepared and use caution,” says Clayburgh. “The more you ski properly, the longer you can do it.”

Arthritis Triggered By Cold Weather

The winter can be a difficult time for those who suffer from arthritis. To address the increased pain brought on by cold weather, arthritis sufferers in the northern United States often resort to wearing extra layers of socks and gloves. Thankfully, arthritis management and pain relief have come a long way in recent years. Visiting an expert could make all the difference in the world, possibly providing you with the winter experience you’ve been missing. Dr. Hope Argenziano, a colleague of Dr. Clayburgh at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic, specializes in rheumatology and has seen almost every type of arthritis that exists. 

Prepare Yourself

Before you participate in any outdoor activity this winter make sure that your body is ready for the physical demands of the task. There are a few simple practices you can do to make sure you are prepared for everything winter activities have to throw at you.

Monitor Pain Levels

While a certain amount of pain will happen with any sort of injury, it’s important to realize when the pain indicates a possible injury. The axiom “better safe than sorry” definitely applies here.

Communicate With Your Doctor 

Let your doctor know the various winter activities you partake in. He or she can give you helpful tips on how to prepare yourself for the amount of activity that you plan to undertake. 

If you’ve suffered a joint injury or a fractured bone, or have any joint pain, ask your doctor to refer you to Valley Bone & Joint Clinic in Grand Forks. Not only are these doctors and surgeons experienced and well-respected, they’re your neighbors who deal with the same winter conditions and activities that you do. Find out more at www.vbjclinic.com, or call 701-746-7521.