Oh sNOw!

With the cold winter weather coming around again, we can obviously expect to see some snow and ice in the coming weeks.

If you are like me, you have had a “slippery” experience with winter weather before,  but it is a time of the year that we can all overcome! 

Since winter can be as treacherous as it is beautiful, I wanted to share some tips to help you finish the season still intact. But first, a story!

T’was the winter of 2017 and there was nothing sheen nor keen… Because it was frozen… all of it. SOLID. 

This was the winter that I lived in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho which is up in the panhandle about 100 miles south of Canada. Being young and ambitious, I thought to myself before moving there that it would be no problem to toughen up and grow a 2 foot long beard and trap some animals to use to keep warm just like Davy Crockett. Was I ever wrong. 

My first cue should have been the first snow in September that was 6 inches deep. From this point on there was white on the ground until the end of March. 

By the 3rd or 4th snow (I can’t remember, it all gets a little frosty) the neighbors had started to use propane torches to help melt the ice on the sidewalk. It would snow overnight and through the day the snow would just slightly melt, only to freeze again during the night. This created what could be described as a 7 layer cake of frozen misery that one could not simply ‘shovel.’

Having grown up in West Virginia, where it snows considerably more than it does here in Asheville, I was massively outclassed. 

One Saturday morning I awoke to what sounded like a vortex engine from NASA outside of my house. Groggily, I went to the window in my bathrobe to see what was transpiring out there in the tundra. 

To my jealous amusement, there were not one but TWO of my neighbors outside with propane torches that looked exactly like a flamethrower melting one of those frozen cakes in their driveways. No joke, this thing was spewing flames at least 3 feet from its nozzle. Standing there, starry eyed in the window with coffee, fuzzy slippers, and a 5 o’clock shadow, all of my boyhood dreams were suddenly re-defined. 

I never did acquire a propane flamethrower to help me combat the nefarious Jack Frost of northern Idaho, but that winter was full of hard work for me. I had a spud bar that I used to bust up the ice and shovel it out with a flat head metal shovel. There was a great deal of sweat and tears involved in the whole process, but it taught me a lot about how to handle winter weather.

Here are a few of the most pivotal points from my experience getting my leftover Biscuits and Gravy fat frozen off:

  1. Stay away from shining things on the ground. Much like overly sparkly personalities, shimmering ground indicates ice! We all know this, but sometimes it can sneak up on us, especially if there is snow on the ground which can hide some of the glazed over appearance of ice.  
  2. Make sure to dress appropriately. Seriously, stop thinking you’ll tough it out for a bit. Take the extra 30 seconds and lace those boots up and find your gloves. That quick little huddled up shuffle across the sidewalk increases your risk of falling, especially if you don’t have the proper footwear on. 
  3. Lower your shoulders! Raising your shoulders to protect your ears against the cold, or if you are just shivering can result in tight upper traps and a sore neck. 
  4. Properly defrost your car. If you are anything like me, if there is frost on your car in the mornings then you scrape a little port hole in your windshield to periscope view the world. This not only is super dangerous – but also makes sure that you are going to get a kink in your neck from peering out of that hole looking for other menacing drivers on the road (looking at you, Merrimon Ave). 
  5. Change up the way you shovel. I cannot stress this enough, there are two ways for everyone to work a shovel assuming that they have two arms.
    1. There is the standard way for both right and left hands where the hand closest to the head of the shovel has the palm up. One has to bend over to get whatever they are working on. 
    2. The other way is to take that bottom hand and put the palm down. This feels funny, so it is more comfortable to push the shovel at an angle away from you. This is seen below:

While this unknown fellow has good hand positioning, we should also note that his posture is terrible. Ideally he would have his bottom poked out a little bit more and his shoulder blades squeezed together that way he would not be using his back to passively load all of the gravitational forces he is experiencing. 

All in all, winter can keep you down, literally making you S.A.D. sometimes. But I know that you can pull through! Have some faith and compassion in yourself, because you rock. If you need it, know that we always have the porch light on for you here at Physio. We even keep the heat on. 

Emerson Talbott, Physical Therapist
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