Put your good foot forward! A guide to winter safety
Winter Safety and Fall Prevention
Many of us may be celebrating the milder winter this year by spending more time outdoors and enjoying better-quality commutes to work. However, even with the milder winter temperatures, there are still seasonal hazards that increase our risk of experiencing a slip and fall. Winter slip and fall incidents can occur both outdoors on snow-covered and icy surfaces, as well as indoors on wet floors and while wearing our wet winter boots.
As physiotherapists, we see the number of slip and fall injuries increase in prevalence during the winter months. Some individuals may be fortunate enough to experience only mild bruising (to their bottom and their pride), while others may be at risk of more severe injuries like knee and ankle sprains, strains of the lower back and fractures of the hip, shoulder or wrist.
Although some slip and fall injuries may happen to even the most careful individuals, many incidents may be avoided with an increased awareness and following a few winter safety precautions.
Put your good foot forward!
- Wearing proper footwear is crucial for reducing winter fall risk. Try to find winter boots/shoes that fit well, have non-slip treads or a rubber sole with a low, wide heel. Increased contact with the ground improves your base of support and balance.
- When exercising outdoors, consider cleats or spikes that can be worn over your boots to help improve your stability when walking or hiking over snow-covered or icy trails. Just remember to remove your spikes when coming indoors!
- Be sure to wipe your feet well when entering a warm building. Melting snow and ice from the bottom of your boots can become quite slippery, not only for yourself, but for others that may walk in behind you. A great strategy may be to bring an alternate pair of indoor shoes or rubber-soled slippers to change into.
Careful of the icy patch!
- Avoid walking on obstructed sidewalks or trails. If you aren’t able to see the walkway, you may not be able to tell if the surface underneath is ice-covered.
- When walking on snow or ice, try to take shorter steps at a slower pace. You want to keep as much surface area of your feet in contact with the ground as possible. On a slippery surface, shuffling your feet may be the best option to give you the most stability.
- Sprinkle salt or kitty litter on your driveway, outdoor steps and walkways that you use most frequently at your home. It may be in moments that you are in a hurry or distracted that you may lose your balance, even in a familiar area.
- When getting out of your car, place both feet securely on the ground and keep a hold of the doorframe. Test how icy the ground is before you jump out.
What happens if you have a slip or fall?
If you happen to experience a slip or fall this winter, take your time getting up. Make sure you are not more seriously injured before trying to get up or letting others help you. If you have a concern of fracture, be sure to call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room for appropriate imaging and assessment. Once cleared, you may then choose to follow up with your family physician or a physiotherapist.
How can physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapy assessment and treatment can assist with post-injury pain and symptom management and help get you back to your regular activities sooner. Depending on your injuries, a physiotherapy treatment program may focus on retraining muscle strength, regaining joint range of motion and improving balance and proprioception to help reduce the risk of re-injury.
Registered Physiotherapist – H.B.Sc. (Kin), M.Sc. (PT), MCPA