If you live in a country that experiences all four seasons you are likely beginning to notice the weather starting to change into autumn. Fall is a wonderful time of year filled with fun activities and for many, the cooler weather of fall is a welcome relief (especially after a hot and humid summer). It’s a beautiful time of the year a time to pick apples, eat Thanksgiving turkey, dress up for Halloween, and enjoy the brightly coloured fall scenery.
But it’s also the time of the year where unnecessary injuries can (and do) happen. In cooler temperatures, it takes our muscles longer to warm up and become fluid and flexible. Seasonal aspects such as rain, hail, and fallen leaves can make for hazardous and slippery walking conditions. Also, getting the house ready for the chill of winter can be a strenuous task. Gardens need to be put to bed, siding needs cleaning, windows need caulking, and the leaves need raking. Unfortunately, injuries caused by strains or too many repetitive tasks in a short time span can occur.
Raking and outdoor clean-up contribute the most to autumn-related injuries. It’s important to treat raking like exercise and to not dive into it without wearing the proper gear and having the right equipment.
Before you start your annual lawn clean up, here are some important ways to avoid injuring yourself:
- Wear stretchy pants. Raking in jeans limits your range of motion and movement, which may force you to overcompensate by overextending your back or shoulders. Yoga or gym pants will do.
- Find a rake that fits. If you have to bend down to rake, your rake is probably too short. There are many back-saving rake handles that allow you to keep your spine straight rather than bend down. Check your local hardware store.
- Warm up first. Just like your morning jog, it’s important to warm up your muscles before raking to avoid injury. Your muscles and joints will thank you for it.
- Stretch afterward. If you treat raking like a workout, then you should also treat your body to a post-workout stretch and cool down. Stretching helps to relieve tension in the muscles and improve recovery. Warm up inside with a nice hot drink or take a warm bath to relax from your hard day outside.
- Pace Yourself. You likely can’t get all of your yard work done in one day – or maybe even one week! Work for two or three hours, and then rest until the next day. Afterwards, warm up inside with a nice hot drink or take a warm bath to relax from your hard day outside.
Jogging & Exercising On Cold Days
If you love the feeling of stepping outside into the crisp, fresh air as you take your morning jog, then you probably have already come face-to-face with a hidden danger that’s lurking on the sidewalks and streets. Leaves can be a problem when walking around your neighbourhood potentially hiding holes or other damage in the sidewalks or road that can lead to injury and becoming slippery when wet. Rain and hail can make the road slippery and just cold enough to be an icy mess. As the season wears on you should watch for frost patches in the early morning in shaded areas that might cause slipping. There’s no avoiding this seasonal risk, but the best way to prevent injury is to be alert and to ensure that your muscles are warmed up before you start your jog.
- Warm up. In cooler temperatures, it takes our muscles longer to warm up and become fluid and flexible. The more warmed up you are, the less chance you have of sustaining an injury. Before you set out on your day, don’t forget to warm up your muscles by doing simple exercises like jumping jacks, butt kicks, arm circles, and hip circles.
- Avoid the ‘Terrible Toos’. Too Much, Too Fast, Too Soon. These ‘terribles’ are the number one reason for injuries are and can easily be avoided by easing into exercising.
- Pay Attention to your Body. Your muscles and joints are your best resources to stay injury free. If you listen to your body it will tell you when you are crossing the line from hurt (which can be normal during exercise bouts) into harm.
- Follow the 48 hour Rule. It is normal to have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for up to 48 hours after an exercise bout. If you feel pain when you are doing something or if you know that you’ve injured yourself, first stop what you are doing and immediately put ice on the area of injury. Gentle movements are better than staying completely still. If you have pain that lasts longer than 48 hours that isn’t getting better, check in with your health-care provider.
On The Road
The same hazards that can get you while walking can do the same while driving as well. Remember too, that leaves can become slick when covered in rain which your car can skid on as easily as ice. The heavy rains that accompany the early fall can be a danger as well as the water might pool on top of oil that has not yet been rinsed off the road. The other road hazards involve visibility. Fog is best countered with careful driving and low beams (as high beams can reflect in a way that causes glare). It’s also important to scrape off or defog your windows to ensure a safe ride.
There’s nothing quite like a wholesome family outing at a nearby farm where you can eat as many apples as you want, pumpkin picking buy fresh pie, enjoy a hayride, and watch your kids or grandkids enjoy themselves. However, if you’re not careful, injury may occur. When picking apples off the ground, be sure your back is not the only muscle doing all the work. Constant bending down can put a strain on your muscles, which could lead to a more serious injury. Pick from easy-to-reach branches instead, and when bending down, remember to lead with your legs. When pumpkin picking be sure to lift with your knees and avoid strain.
Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding this seasonal risk. Accidents do happen and so do aches and pains. If you ever find yourself seriously injured from a slip and fall here is what you should do to give yourself the best chance of recovering from your injuries:
Checking for injuries
Symptoms of joint injury
Symptoms vary, depending on the type of joint injury you have:
- Strain: pain, swelling, muscle spasms and difficulty moving the affected joint
- Sprain: pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty with motion and (possibly) a popping sound at the time of injury
- Fracture: swelling, loss of function in the injured area, pain that intensifies when you move or apply pressure to the injured area, or bone visibly poking out of your skin (in the case of an open fracture)
- Dislocation: visible displacement of the joint, intense pain, swelling, discolorations, total immobility of the affected area
For strains and sprains, use the RICE method:
- Rest: avoid use of the injured joint
- Ice: apply ice or cold pack to reduce swelling in the joint
- Compression: wrap the injured joint with an elastic bandage, also to reduce swelling
- Elevation: raise the injured area while sitting or lying down and icing it; ideally, the joint should be above the level of your heart
Several rounds of the RICE method should lead to recovery, and pain medicine can ease your discomfort.
If you’re unable to move the joint at all or feel numbness around your injured area, arrange to see your physician as soon as possible.
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Enjoy all fall has to offer while also living your life pain-free!