Ah, look out at the gorgeous snow covered mountains and the splendor of winter’s majesty…and ice on the roads and walkways that can present serious risk of slips and falls. To improve safety and reduce your risk of falls and injury, here are some tips to consider:
- Wear warm clothing that can keep your muscles from getting stiff and provide some padding if you should fall. Footwear should be slip-resistant rubber or neoprene rather than leather or plastic soles. Flat soles are better than heels. You may add products that help produce an abrasive sole, slip-on cleats, spikes or Yaktrax to add traction for icy surfaces.
- Give yourself extra time to travel when conditions are questionable so you don’t have to rush. Slow and steady is best in snow and ice.
- Be prepared for black-ice formation after melting occurs. It can be tricky to spot.
- Avoid carrying items. Keep hands empty so arms are free to move for stabilization. Use backpacks if possible.
- Avoid distractions like your phone/texts while walking.
PICK YOUR PATH
- Look for parking or walking spots that have been cleared of snow, and areas where ice melt has been applied. Stick to well-lit areas when able. Avoid shortcuts and sloped areas
- Look ahead at the walkway using eyes, but not head, to scan for slick surfaces. You may need to walk on a grassy edge rather than an icy sidewalk.
- Watch for slippery floors and remove snow/water from shoes when entering a building.
- Exercise caution when getting in and out of vehicles. Plant both feet firmly under you on the ground and keep hold of the door frame until you have your balance. Many slips occur when getting out of the vehicle.
- Take shortened steps shuffling like a penguin. Keeping the front foot under, rather than out in front of, you as you step reduces risk of feet sliding due to angle as your weight hits the surface.
- Transition carefully stepping downward rather than forward as you lower off curb or stairs. Use handrails for support on stairs.
- Keep your hands free so you can use your arms to help maintain balance.
IF YOU FALL
- If you can’t catch your balance and feel yourself beginning to fall, bend your knees so you are lower to the ground. There is less force falling from 2 feet than 6 feet.
- Rolling with a fall produces less force and may reduce risk of injury.
- Avoid reaching a hand out to brace for impact. You are better off landing on soft tissue than you are to break a wrist. If you fall sideways, try landing on thigh/buttock and then shoulder. If you slip backward, try landing in a seated position on buttocks and stay loose if you can to absorb the impact.
- Keep your head tucked to avoid hitting your head if possible.
- If you are injured, seek medical assistance as necessary. Missoula Bone & Joint has Urgent Care hours to assess you for injuries
Written by Marla Crago, Physical Therapist