The winter months in Canada bring a lot of excitement – different snow and ice sports, such as tobogganing, skating, skiing, and snow shoeing. While the snow and ice can be fun to partake in, they can also be dangerous in unexpected and unanticipated situations.
As a physiotherapist, I see patients with slip and fall injuries throughout the year, but this number definitely increases during the winter months. Sprains and fractures to knees and strains of low backs are most common. However, shoulder sprains and strains, and wrist fractures are also contenders – particularly when someone uses their arms to try to break a fall.
Although some injuries will happen even to the most careful of individuals, some injuries can be avoided with an increased awareness of winter prevention and precautions.
Winter slip and fall mishaps can occur both on outdoor icy surfaces, as well as on indoor wet floors. Just as we are taught to be defensive drivers on the roads, we also ought to be defensive walkers. While moving from one place to the other on foot, take care to abide by the following suggestions.
15 Tips for Preventing Winter Falls
- Avoid obstructed sidewalks and trails. Large chunks of ice, fallen branches, and power wires can cause severe injuries if not noticed.
- Avoid engaging in other activities, such as cell phone use, while walking. Slippery conditions require your complete attention.
- Avoid carrying heavy objects or boxes. These not only can obstruct your view, but can keep you from using your arms to regain your balance should you lose it.
- We all need to keep warm, but avoid wearing hats or scarves that block your vision or your ability to hear.
- Wear proper footwear. They might look nice, but high heel boots are not proper attire to be wearing while walking outside in slippery conditions. They decrease your base of support, and therefore your balance. The heels can also get caught in the snow.
- Purchase good winter footwear. Go to a well-known sports or athletics store to purchase winter boots. Find insulated, waterproof boots that have a good non-slip tread, a rubber sole, and a wide, low heel.
- Traction cleats or ice grippers, devices that slide on over your boots, can improve your ability to walk over slippery icy conditions.
- Wipe your feet well before entering a building, and before climbing or descending steps. Footwear with cold ice and snow on the bottom can become quite slippery upon entering a warm building.
- Walk on clear, well-lit pathways. Winter is not the time of year to be taking shortcuts.
- Avoid climbing over snowbanks. Walk around them. It takes longer, but it’s much safer.
- When you must descend a slippery bank or hill, walk sideways as opposed to straight down. This betters your base of support and, if you start to slide, your back foot can hold you up.
If you use any aid for walking – a cane, walker, or crutches – avoid wintery conditions at all costs. If you must go out, go with someone who is able and prepared to assist you as needed.
If you use a walking aid, or are a senior or other individual who simply does not trust themselves in the winter conditions, take advantage of home delivery of grocery items and pharmaceuticals. Many stores have this worthy service available for a nominal fee.
Spread salt on your driveway, outdoor house steps, any walking paths leading to your house, and even on the sidewalk at the front of your house. If salt is not available, kitty litter can act as a good alternative.
If you must go out on a slippery day, avoid leaving in the very early mornings if you can. Wait until daylight, until the snowplows have gone by, and ideally until the sidewalks have been cleaned and salted.
Winter slips and falls cannot be completely prevented but by abiding by the aforementioned suggestions you can expect to experience a safer and more enjoyable journey.
If You Slip and Fall
If you do experience a winter slip and fall, it is important that you seek necessary treatment. If there is a concern of a fracture, you should go to the nearest hospital emergency department as soon as possible.
When no fracture is evident but pain persists, a visit to your family doctor may be in order. With or without the prescription of a physician, you can also seek physiotherapy treatment, where we will perform a thorough assessment of your injury and focus our treatment first on your pain, and then progress your healing as tolerated.
The staff at BodyMend care about your safety, and also about your healing. We wish you a safe and joyful Canadian winter season!
>> If you have any questions, or would like to book an appointment, please call BodyMend at (905) 456-8196. We look forward to hearing from you!
Image Courtesy of: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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