3 Tips to Prevent Slips (& Falls) During Winter

What most are hoping will be the send off for winter, the snow has arrived in Buffalo

While most people prepare for these conditions by making sure their car is equipped with snow tires, a full tank of gas, and an emergency kit, there are a few other items you may want to consider before deciding to venture out in this weather.

Sadly, winter marks a time of patients heading to our office as a result of a slip and/or fall. Icy and snowy walkways begin to challenge not only those who are “at-risk” to slipping and falling but also the general population. According to data from the National Safety Council, 25,000 slip, trip, and fall accidents occur daily in the US.

Annually, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates nearly 2.8 million individuals above the age of 65 are treated in the ER due to injuries sustained from falls.1 The CDC also indicates that the medical cost for these fall injuries tops out at $34 billion every year.

To avoid being a statistic this winter, here are a few things to consider before heading out into the snowy abyss.

#1 – Improve Your Traction While Walking

Just like a good set of snow tires can prevent you from sliding into a ditch, a good pair of shoes can help prevent falls. When slipping on shoes to go outside, even if just to take out the garbage, check for a pair of boots with good traction and slip-resistant surfaces. One company, Yaktrax, has taken this a step further and developed traction spikes that you can fit onto your shoes to make navigating icy surfaces safer. Yaktrax wraps around most shoes and goes on and off with ease. Click here to view Yaktrax on Amazon.

If you’re an individual who is worried about walking through snow and ice, this product has been a patient favorite. If you’re interested, you can find them by clicking here.

In addition, what is usually designated for hikers, Nordic Poles are a great piece of equipment for preventing falls. In icy conditions, these collapsible poles are easy to transport and can be far more effective than a cane.

Some poles even have ice attachments for a better grip. The four points of contact provided by adding Nordic poles (2 poles plus two feet equal 4 points of ground contact) greatly improve stability and balance. Click here to find them on Amazon.

#2 – Take it Slow

If you do find yourself needed to go outside to brave the elements, please remember to take it slow. Walking slowly while taking small, short steps will help to keep your center of gravity underneath you and prevent the normal fall backward. Wegmans put up greats signs to walk like a penguin — you can give that a try.

Additionally, an all too common cause of falling is slipping and falling getting out of the car. Make sure to get both feet planted securely on the ground before standing slowly to get your balance, holding onto the car as needed. This one small change can mean the difference between making it safely indoors rather than finding yourself down on the ground covered in snow.

#3 – Balance and Strength Training

Off the shelf products and taking caution when walking on slick surfaces are great starting points to immediately decrease your risk for falls; however, it’s important to train your main source of balance: your muscles and joints. A study published in 2016 found that walking, balance, functional training and strength training can not only decrease the risk for falls but also significantly decrease the risk for serious injury resulting from a fall.

The key to improving your balance is a whole-body focused approach to strength and balance training. If you’re interested in learning more, consider a Free Discovery Visit with our Physical Therapists to learn more about how you can get stronger and prevent your next fall.

The key this winter (and every winter) is to prevent falling. Unfortunately, falling once doubles your chances of falling again.3 If you’re looking to keep your feet on the ground this year, I highly suggest grabbing yourself some YakTrax and Nordic poles, but please don’t neglect your strength and balance.

References
1. Shier V, Trieu E, Ganz DA. Implementing exercise programs to prevent falls: systematic descriptive review. Inj Epidemiol. 2016;3(1):16.
2. Seven Statistics on Winter Workplace Injuries: Ice, Ice Baby. https://www.bongarde.com/seven-statistics-on-winter-workplace-injuries-ice-ice-baby/
3. National Floor Safety Institute. Slip & Fall Quick Stats.

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