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Avoid winter health hazards with these safety tips

Two common winter injuries: fracturing a bone falling on the ice and wrenching your back shoveling snow. In this episode of Health Fusion, Viv Williams shares tips from a University of Minnesota doctor.

IMG_8819.jpgBlack lab in snow
A snowy road may be beautiful, but be very careful when you're walking on it.
Viv Williams / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — When ice and snow blankets the ground, the number of winter injuries rise.

"The most common injuries we might see are related to slips and falls on icy, wet surface," says Dr. Mahmood Gharib , a University of Minnesota Medical School physical medicine and rehab expert. "People may fall and get sprains, strains or concussions. Also, people get out there and they shovel heavy, wet snow and it can cause or aggravate back pain."

He says you can reduce the risk of falling victim to winter health hazards by practicing prevention.

Tips for shoveling:

"Shovel regularly, instead of letting snow build up," says Gharib. "Wear good, warm clothing in layers and choose appropriate footwear so you're less susceptible to falls. And also use proper technique."


  • Use proper lifting technique. Bend at the hips and knees, push instead of pull and limit excessive lifting.
  • Stretch beforehand.
  • Use an ergonomic shovel, typically made of lightweight, durable metals or plastic to reduce stress on your back.
  • Wear layers.
  • Wear shoes with appropriate tread.

If you injure your back and are in significant pain, have trouble moving or have numbness and tingling in your legs, seek medical attention.

Tips for walking outside in winter:

  • Walk slowly with a wide stance and take small, shuffling steps — like a penguin — to maintain balance.
  • Watch out for black ice, which can be difficult to see.
  • Wear warm shoes or boots with appropriate tread.

If you do fall on the ice and hit your head or think you may have a bone fracture, seek medical attention.
Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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