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Tips for Avoiding Winter Slips, Trips and Falls
by Carol Stillman, PT
Wintry weather leads to slips and falls and an increase in emergency room visits. With one snowstorm behind us and another storm on the way, these fall prevention tips would come in handy and help you to stay upright.
Don’t dress to impress! Dress for Traction!
Wear shoes for the weather. Choose shoes, boots or sneakers that have soles with treads with deep grooves that are less likely to slip when you take a step. Nothing is worse than wearing footwear without grip while walking in the snow. You will move and slide in no time. Avoid wearing unstable shoes or any sort of shoe with no tread while walking in the snow. Last month when speaking at Ensleow store, I saw a few pairs that fill this description.
You may not ordinarily use a cane, but if you feel you may need a bit more support, don’t be vain. Pick up a cane or stick with an ice pick on the end and it can help you balance on slippery surfaces. You can find them online and at drugstores.
Stay puffed. Wear a bulky coat to cushion some of the blow if you do fall. You can also try hip protectors, pads that slip into your pants or are worn as a belt. If you see people wearing the much talked about Amazon Coat, I guarantee they also picked it for its puffy filling.
Also, sunglasses are not just for the summer. The snow’s glare can be blinding, so a good pair of sunglasses can help you see clearly and avoid slippery spots.
Slow Down When Walking!
Instead of walking at your usual speed, walk like a penguin. Spread your feet. This broadens your base, making it harder to fall. Bend your knees slightly to lower your center of gravity and spread your arms out to your sides for balance.
If you can’t bring yourself to walk like a penguin; shuffle slowly. Keep your feet about a foot apart, and take small, shuffling steps, aligning your feet after each step.
Stairs can be treacherous. They are slippery as well. Whether you’re going up or down icy steps, use the handrail and then make sure to plant both feet on a step before moving to the next one.
Look where you are walking!
As New Yorkers, we’re always walking to make the light. When it’s wet and icy, crossing any street needs a little thought.
View sidewalks and crosswalks as the enemy. A sidewalk or crosswalk can be clear of snow, still, have a layer of ice. Move cautiously as any wet surface can be icy and bring you down. If a sidewalk looks icy, look for any patch of grass for more traction. It’s easier said than done in NYC, but keep your eyes open. Also, If you have a choice, walk on the southern side of the path. North-facing spots stay icy longer.
If you really want to avoid falling, be prepared!
Carry a small bag of sand, grit or non-clumping kitty litter to sprinkle on the sidewalk when you see some ice. People may laugh, but you will have a bit more traction while helping your fellow New Yorker.
If you do fall…fall with a plan.
If you feel you are about to fall and go down, lean forward, so the back of your head and spine don’t hit the pavement. Try to land on your thigh, hip, and shoulder, not on your easily broken arms, knees, wrists or spine. Also, hard as it may be, relax your muscles as you fall. You’ll be less likely to get hurt.
I hope that you enjoy this weekend's wintery weather and are safe and sound!