Getting Back in the Game!

In Alberta, back injuries account for 25% of all Worker’s Compensation Board lost-time claims. Back injuries are very common. Most of us will experience some kind of back pain, strain or injury in our lifetime. 

To prevent back injuries, maintain strong muscles & bones. Exercise & eat a healthy diet. Work on your flexibility & ways to reduce stress. Correct your posture on a regular basis.

Practice good ergonomics. Lift properly. Ensure there is nothing to trip on (do a site audit) & wear good shoes. Ensure your work/living space is safe. If nececessary, modify your activities to prevent back strain. Take frequent breaks or alternate work activities to reduce repetitive stresses.

As a first aid/CPR instructor, I am always lifting bags of equipment in & out of my truck. I keep loads light & practice good lifting techniques. Unfortunately last week I woke-up to a severe back ache. It felt like I pinched a nerve (as my left leg was numb).

Stretching & hot baths weren’t helping, so I made an appointment with a chiropractor. X-rays revealed that my pain is due to a curve in my spine (which I was born with), age & arthritis (so much for aging gracefully). Fortunately, after only a few visits to the chiropractor, I am feeling some relief already.

Statistics gathered by WCB Alberta, indicate that chiropractic is the most consistent & cost-effective treatment for back injuries. Also, when it comes to tight back muscles, it is best to move around (slow but sure). In the process, muscles stay limber. This helps to speed up the healing process.

Back muscles are involved in all everyday activities. Do what you can to protect your back & to prevent injuries. If injured, consider getting the help of a qualified professional. We are all different, if traditional methods like stretching aren’t working for you consider chiropractics, massage or accupuncture. Find what works for you so that you can be pain-free, productive & back in the game of life!

How to Shovel Snow without Hurting Yourself

It is a winter wonderland out there. Actually it is a big icy snowy mess. As the City works at clearing our roads, you & I work at clearing our sidewalks & driveways. It is a lot of work & good exercise. However, if we are not careful, shovelling snow can lead to injuries & fatalities.

We are at risk of injuries because of the heavy workload (that we are not used to doing) & because of the cold (poor blood circulation contributes to frost bite, hypothermia & heart attacks). Injuries also result because of falls, slipping on the ice/snow. Here are 10 tips to prevent snow shovelling injuries.

Snow Shovelling Injury Prevention Tips

1)       Shovelling can be a strenuous physical activity. Do a few warm-up exercises. Move muscles through their full range of motion. Keep motions slow & controlled. Try push & pull arm motions, circle your shoulders in both directions, trunk rotations/twists & a few knee bends/squats (for example). A light cardio warm-up will also help (dance to a good song on the radio).

2)       Dress for the weather. Layer clothing with nylon or silk fibres closest to the skin. Avoid cotton. Cotton will absorb your sweat & keep it next to your skin (making you cold). Wear a hat & good gloves. Warm boots with good tread/grip are also a must. 

3)       Shovel often. Get it done before it piles up. Don’t wait until it gets wet & heavy. It takes more effort to move the heavy stuff (put less on the shovel).

4)       Use a shovel with a plastic blade (lighter in weight). The blade doesn’t have to be big. It is best to push/lift smaller amounts of snow. Smaller scoops/lighter loads will be easier on your back.

5)       Use a shovel designed for pushing snow. Pushing snow, instead of lifting it, is easier on the back.

6)       Ergonomic curved handles, can also help to reduce stress on your back. The handle should be close to your body (avoid out stretched arms). Keep the handle at waist height as you push the snow. When lifting snow, keep your hands farther apart on the handle (for leverage). 

7)       Keep your body in good alignment/posture while shovelling. Have a wider based of support with your legs. Bend at your knees & hips, tighten your stomach muscles & lift with your legs. Never lift while twisting & turning. Make sure that your toes are pointing in the direction that you are pushing/throwing (always throw snow in front of you).

8)       Take your time. Pace yourself (a slow but sure approach). Don’t overexert. Take breaks. Stay hydrated (avoid caffeine). Warm your ears, nose, fingers or toes if they get cold.

9)       Shovelling is good exercise. If you have a neighbour that can’t shovel snow due to an injury or medical condition, offer to help. Be a snow angel.

10)   If you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, check with your doctor (snow shovelling may not be recommended). We all need help sometimes. Remember, you can always hire someone to help you. Ask a neighbour’s kid, post a sign at the local convenience store or community centre or hire a snow removal service.

A back ache can be very painful & can affect your quality of life. We need strong backs for work & every day activities. Rehabilitation can be a long & costly process. Prevent injuries & cold weather emergencies in the first place. Take care when shovelling snow & stay well!

Tips to Prevent Falls & Broken Bones

Did you know that seniors are more afraid of falling than they are of being mugged? Falls lead to injuries like broken bones, which can result in a loss of independence & can in fact be fatal. Regardless of age, you don’t have to fall from a great height to get seriously hurt. Getting hurt can result in a loss of income & increase of both debt & stress.

Getting hurt/breaking bones is just no fun at all. I should know, I fell down 2 stairs and broke my ribs 2 months ago. I am still limited in how much I can do, however I am definately on the path to recovery.

Bones provide structure, protect organs, anchor muscles and store calcium. To build strong bones and reduce the risk of bone injuries like osteoporosis, we need adequate calcium. We also need to do weight bearing activities/exercises.

Calcium is a mineral needed by the body for many reasons including the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. The body cannot produce calcium; therefore, it must be absorbed through food or taken as a supplement. Vitamin D also plays an important role in healthy bone development. It helps in the absorption of calcium (this is why milk is fortified with vitamin D).

To keep bones healthy, we also need to do weight-bearing physical activity on a regular basis. If you don’t like resistance training, try walking, jogging, hiking, stair climbing, dancing, jumping rope, racquetball, basketball or soccer. I can't wait to go jogging again.

Prevention, of course, is the best medicine. Get in the habit of doing a quick safety audit or checklist before starting any task or activity. Prevent falls & broken bones by ensuring that:

-       you are focused, alert & aware of what is going on around you

-       you have what you need to be safe (training, safety gear, tools) & that all is in good condition

-       you are not rushed (slow down). Don’t take short cuts where safety is concerned.

-       you always use safe practices. For example, never standing at the very top of a ladder & use a non-slip mat in your bathtub.

-       the area is safe, well lit & there is nothing to trip on

Our health depends on strong bones. Try the tips above to stay strong & live long.

For more information on injury prevention call Go-Getters Inc (403 481 8175). Invite us to give a presentation at your next health & safety meeting or lunch & learn event. Workplace first aid courses are also offered. Treatment for broken bones & other medical emergencies will be covered.

Sleep Prevents Injuries

From birth, we spend a third of our lives asleep. Researchers aren’t sure why the body needs sleep but they do know that on average, the body requires 7 – 9 hours of sleep for optimal health.

Research shows that children, who get less sleep, are at greater risk of becoming overweight. On school nights, only one in five teenagers gets the optimal nine hours of sleep. Most adults don’t get enough sleep because of busy lifestyles. Insomnia affects nearly half of adults 60 years and older.

Lack of sleep makes us grumpy. I love this saying: sometimes I wake up grumpy & sometimes I let him sleep in. When tired, it is difficult to maintain a positive attitude.

Lack of sleep also causes impairment. We have trouble retaining information (memory is affected). We are not as productive. We are no longer alert to what is going on around us. We have poor judgement & make mistakes. Accidents & injuries increase.

Twice, I have been close to being hit head on by another vehicle, due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. I am very lucky to have avoided vehicle collisions that could have been deadly. Luckily, the drivers and their passengers also escaped injury (their vehicles ended up in the ditch). If you find yourself tired & driving, pull your car into the nearest approach & have a quick nap. Don’t put yourself & innocent people in danger.

To remain physically & mentally healthier & to prevent injuries we need adequate sleep. Try to go to sleep a half hour earlier tonight. Take care of yourself! You’ll feel better for it. Sweet dreams!

R.I.C.E. for Injuries

Everyone agrees that most injuries are preventable. Yet the leading cause of death for Canadians 1 – 44 years is injuries.

Most bone, muscle & joint injuries are caused by a direct blow to the body, awkward or sudden movements & repetitive forces. Injuries happen at home, at the work site, from motor vehicle accidents & from participation in sports & recreational activities.

Injuries from falls are very common and can be fatal, especially for seniors. You don’t have to fall from a great height for an injury to be serious.

With a recent spring snow storm, I slipped & fell down only two patio steps. I managed to land on my ribs; fracturing three of them. I am lucky that I didn’t puncture a lung. I am also luck that I didn’t sustain a head or spine injury.

First Aid training will help you to administer proper care for yourself & others in medical need. With first aid training you’ll learn how to treat non-life threatening bone, muscle & joint injuries using the R.I.C.E. method.

R = rest            I = immobilize               C = cool           E = elevate

An exception: with broken ribs the torso should “not” be wrapped/immobilized (even if it feels better to have the extra support). If ribs are wrapped, then the lungs are restricted & become weaken & at risk for pneumonia. The doctor told me that the lungs need breathing room to stay strong.

Most everyone that I spoke to assumed that wrapping the chest with bandages was the best treatment for broken ribs. I learned first hand, this is not the case. As a first aid instructor, I now have a new story to share, when educating others about broken ribs/bones, injury prevention & treatment.  

Don’t take short cuts where safety is concerned. Take the time to be safe, stay alert, take precautions, wear safety equipment & prevent injuries. Educate your kids, your co-workers & yourself. Take first aid & safety training. Be proactive & prepared because life/injuries happen.

Contact Go-Getters Inc to arrange first aid training at your workplace. We'll give you & your co-workers the confidence to react to real life/work medical emergencies.

Too Much Too Soon

With the warmer weather, I have noticed that everyone is venturing outdoors. It is nice to see so many people getting active.

I grew up on a farm, so enjoy getting outside to garden. I can’t wait to plant my flowers. I have talked to many people, who feel the same. There is something mentally therapeutic about gardening. It is also an excellent way to get physically active.  

If you haven’t done a lot of exercises over the winter, don’t do too much too soon. Take it slow to prevent injuries. Do your yard clean-up in stages. Take breaks. Prevent back pain by using your legs to lift heavy loads. When picking up raked leaves, don’t twist and lift at the same time.

Since the sun’s rays are getting stronger, remember to wear a hat and sun screen. After a long winter indoors, our skin is not used to the elements. If exposed to too much sun and wind, you’ll get burned. You may also get skin cancer. Take precautions and protect your skin.

If you are new to exercise, start slow and enjoy the activity. At first, you’ll feel strong enough to push/test your limits. If you push too hard, your muscles will feel stiff and sore for days after. If you do too much, too soon, you’ll get injured or give up on activities that are good for you. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Give your muscles adequate time to recover between work-outs.

Don’t pick the hottest time of the day to start working-out. If you do too much too soon in the heat, you may experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Find cooler times to work-up a sweat and stay hydrated. Start training now, so that you gradually get used to exercising in warmer weather (which we hope to get soon).

Whatever you do, do it safely. Resist the urge to do too much, too soon. Get active but stay injury free.

Go-Getters Inc puts the “health” into health and safety at the workplace. With our injury prevention and wellness workshops and our group fitness classes, we reduce sick leave, stress and compensation claims. Contact Go-Getters Inc today: 403 481 8175.

Injury Prevention is Everyone’s Business

Have you had a workplace injury? Do you know someone else, who has been injured on the job? It is unfortunate, but I am sure that we all have stories that we could tell.

To prevent injuries, take necessary precautions. For example, wear proper safety equipment in the workplace. Take the time to ensure that you, and others, will not be hurt. Ask for guidance if unsure about anything to do with safety. Be proactive and be safe.

Be alert to what is going on around you. If you see a co-worker doing something that may hurt him/her, or others, talk to them. Remind them to be safe. If they know that you have their best interests in mind, they will appreciate it.

Develop a work culture that is open & receptive to safety reminders and education. Everyone should feel comfortable talking to their co-works about safety. Safety dialogue is always good.

Injury prevention at the workplace is everyone’s business. It takes teamwork to make & keep a workplace injury free. Remember that “all” injuries are predictable and preventable. We all responsible for a safe workplace.

Our presentation: Workplace Injury Prevention Tips encourages this team approach. We have many valuable injury prevention tips to share. Keep health & safety top-of-mind, call Go-Getters Inc today!

Stretch to Prevent Injuries

Flexibility is a component of physical fitness yet often gets neglected. We are always busy & in a hurry. With barely enough time to fit in a work-out, when are we supposed to find time to stretch?

I too have neglected to stretch after exercising, even though I know better. As a result, I have suffered shoulder & lower back aches & pains. Don’t learn the hard way. Avoid injury & take care of yourself. Incorporate stretches into your daily routine, even at work.

Stretching is important to good health. Stretching is preventative medicine and helps with the rehabilitation of injured muscles. When you have sore muscles, light activity & stretching can help you get better faster.

What is the best way to stretch? When the muscles are cold, like first thing in the morning, start slowly with controlled movements that take your muscles through a full range of motion. Don’t overstretch cold muscles. After muscles are warmed up with light dynamic stretches, move into deeper stretches.

Stretches should feel good (stretch don’t strain) and should be held for at least 15 - 20 seconds. When stretching strive to lengthen the muscle, relax and release muscle tension.  

So, when is the best time to stretch? The answer is anytime and often, especially after exercise & participation in sport activities.  It is also a good idea to incorporate stretching during your work day. Take frequent short breaks to change your body position & to stretch your muscles. This can help to prevent wrist, neck, shoulder & back pain as well as musculoskeletal injuries caused from exposure to repetitive tasks.

For stretches that you can do at your workplace, call Go-Getters Inc. Our interactive wellness workshops will give you the tools that you need to prevent workplace injuries, to reduce stress and to increase productivity.