Preventing Winter Slips and Falls
Winter weather is officially upon us, and this is the time of year when cold temperatures and precipitation join forces to create treacherous driving – and walking – conditions. Here are some tips to help you navigate the perilous roads and sidewalks, and to avoid falls or injuries this holiday season.
1. Check weather conditions first thing in the morning.
Most winter back injuries are caused by simple, routine tasks performed in the morning (such as bending over to pick up the newspaper or letting the dogs out). Because we tend to be on “autopilot” when we do these things, we forget to be mindful of the conditions outdoors. Winter mornings are dark, reducing visibility, and often we’re unaware of what happened weather-wise overnight. There may be a fresh accumulation of ice and snow awaiting our first steps out the door. The tricky combination of precipitation, cold temperatures, wind and darkness during winter months can create hazardous walking conditions. Before you take that first step outside in the morning to retrieve the paper or start your car, observe the weather conditions and make sure you pace yourself accordingly.
2. Take your time.
In addition to being aware of sidewalk conditions, also be conscious of how fast you’re moving. Slow down and take your time when you aren’t sure what exactly you’re stepping onto (i.e. ice, frozen snow, etc.). Even the short walk down your driveway or from your car to your place of business presents a potential hazard. Proceed with caution and don’t be in a rush; take your time. Better to arrive late than not at all!
3. Pay attention.
Anyone who has endured Midwestern winter weather is familiar with the term “black ice”, which refers to a thin coat of highly transparent ice that’s invisible but extremely slick. There’s also the ice that we are completely aware of and can see clearly, yet no matter how cautiously we proceed, we slip and fall. When navigating any type of ice, make sure you’re paying full attention to the task at hand: left foot, right foot. Concentrate on your feet and move carefully. Try not to let your mind be preoccupied with the errands you need to run, the meeting you might be late for, or what you’re going to make for dinner. Focus your attention and energy on taking careful, purposeful steps.
4. Use appropriate footwear.
This bit of advice might seem like a given, yet many individuals choose style over function when it comes to winter footwear. Select a high-quality boot or other durable type of shoe that has good traction and will also protect your feet from snow and ice. If you’re concerned about appearance, carry your high-heels or loafers in a bag and change into them when you arrive at your destination.
5. Seek treatment.
If slips and falls become unavoidable and you find yourself injured or in pain, seek appropriate treatment. If you think you’ve broken a bone, seek care at an emergency room or urgent care provider. If, on the other hand, you know you haven’t broken anything but are still in pain, our experienced team at Reinecke Chiropractic can help alleviate your discomfort and correct spinal misalignments and musculoskeletal problems caused by slips or falls.
There are three types of slip-and-fall injuries that commonly occur in winter conditions. The first is when your feet go out from under you, and you hit the ground bottom-first. This can cause low back injury, mid-back injury, and is particularly damaging when it occurs on stairs, due to the multiple angles of impact on your body. Problems resulting from this type of fall can include pelvic sprains or disc injuries, both of which can be treated with chiropractic.
The second type of slip-and fall injury occurs when you fall, but catching yourself on one of your outstretched arms, either behind you or in front of you, and landing with all your weight on that arm. Often this type of fall results in shoulder injuries (which are the number three reason that patients seek chiropractic care). Chiropractic can treat these shoulder problems as well. Even when an injury results in pain that feels like it necessitates surgery, chiropractic care can often alleviate this pain and discomfort.
The third type of “fall” is where you slip but don’t actually fall. You whip your body this way or that, trying to keep your feet , and somehow remain in an upright position without ever hitting the ground. Though you might silently congratulate yourself on your quick reflexes and think, “Well, at least I didn’t fall,” you might later experience whiplash-like symptoms, headaches or back pain because of the quick, unnatural movement you used to avoid going down. Remember, you don’t have to hit the ground in order to hurt yourself! Fortunately, chiropractic can help with these non-fall injuries as well.
Children are at greater risk for falls and injuries, as their nature lends to running and playing in the snow, oblivious to the dangers of hidden ice and slippery terrain. Particularly problematic about this is that even when a child is injured in a way that needs chiropractic attention, he or she might lack the language to convey that they are hurt. Young children can’t always communicate or articulate their discomfort, so parents might mistakenly assume that if when the kids stop crying, that means they’re okay. Kids’ little bodies are so limber and resilient that sometimes they don’t even notice that something is wrong or out of alignment. If this happens and the problem isn’t addressed and corrected, there’s a risk that the spine and muscles will heal incorrectly and inhibit range of motion from that point forward. Therefore, it’s important to make sure children receive chiropractic attention after a slip or fall to ensure healthy spinal alignment and formation.
We hope that these tips will help you avoid injury this winter, but if a slip or fall happens, our team at Reinecke has the experience, skills and tools to help address and correct problems, alleviate discomfort, and restore your spinal health and overall well-being.