Winter Hacks to Prevent Falls

Winter is finally here and its first impression was one of 10mph highway speeds and bumper-to-bumper exit routes. 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 might want to ask Santa for this year.

Sadly, winter marks a time of patients heading to our office as a result of a slip and fall. Icy sidewalks and walkways challenge what is an already lack of balance for most of the population. 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 It’s reported that one out of five falls results in a serious injury including a broken bone or head injury.2,3

As dismal as it seems, there are some “winter hacks” that you can use to prevent yourself from being a statistic.


Better Grip 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. One company, Yaktrax, has developed traction spikes that you can fit onto your shoes to make navigating icy surfaces safer. Yaktrax wrap around most shoes and go on and off with ease.

For patients who go on morning walks or are 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.


Nordic Poles

What are usually designated for avid 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 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 purchase them.


Balance and Strength Training

Off the shelf products are great supplements to immediately decrease your risk for falls; however, it’s important to train your main source of balance: your anatomy. A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that a balanced-focused exercise program can not only prevent 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 approached to strength and balance training. If interested, you can set up a formal evaluation with one of our Physical Therapists to help you build an individualized program.

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 deficits!

1. O’Loughlin J et al. Incidence of and risk factors for falls and injurious falls among the community-dwelling elderly. American journal of epidemiology, 1993, 137:342-54.
2. Alexander BH, Rivara FP, Wolf ME. The cost and frequency of hospitalization for fall–related injuries in older adults. American Journal of Public Health 1992;82(7):1020–3.
3. Sterling DA, O’Connor JA, Bonadies J. Geriatric falls: injury severity is high and disproportionate to mechanism. Journal of Trauma–Injury, Infection and Critical Care 2001;50(1):116–9
4. El-Khoury Fabienne, Cassou Bernard, Charles Marie-Aline, Dargent-Molina Patricia. The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials BMJ 2013; 347 :f6234