This time of year in Maine is notorious for icy sidewalks and snowy driveways, not to mention slippery stairs. Getting in and out of your house can seem like a monumental task. We get asked a lot by practice members, “How can I walk around so that I am less likely to fall, and if I do fall, how can I fall so that I don’t injure myself?” Rest assured, there are safer, smarter ways to make your way through an icy winter. Here are some of our favorite tips for keeping your body safe this winter.
- Don’t Trust Your Eyes Alone
A sidewalk or parking lot can look clear and still have a nasty layer of ice. It is best to assume that all surfaces are slippery if there has been recent snow or freezing rainfall.
- Find Traction
If you encounter slippery spots, look for areas of grass, rough dirt, gravel or rough snow. They are usually less slippery.
- Think Like a Bird and Go South
If you can walk on the southern side of the path, do so. Southern exposures receive more sunlight and usually clear off more quickly.
- Don’t Hold Anything
If you start falling you will need your hands free. Try and keep your hands out of your pocket and don’t hold anything if you can help it. If you start falling you can often rebalance yourself, if you have your hands free.
- Get Safe Footwear
During winter storms, throw fashion out the door. Get a pair of low, wide-heeled shoes that have good tread made of either rubber or neoprene composite. Plastic and leather soles are common in shoes, but despite how they look they provide almost no traction. A pair of yak trax or another kind of clip on ice clamps also can work wonders for navigating icy walkways.
- Take Traction in Your Own Hands
If you are really nervous about falling, or if you know that your home or work has very difficult icy patches, consider carrying a small bag of sand or kitty litter. Sprinkle it on your path as you walk to help you maintain traction.
- Walk like a Penguin
Try spreading your feet when you walk. This broadens your base giving you a lower center of gravity and making it harder to fall. You can also slightly bend your knees. And put your arms out to your sides to help you balance as you walk. You might look dumb to your friends, but you’ll have the last laugh when they end up on their backside!
Keep your feet about a foot apart so your base is broad, and take small, shuffling steps. Go slowly. If you think you’re slow now imagine how much slower you would be with a cast!
- Use the Railing
When you are going up or down icy outdoor steps, use the hand rail to keep you upright. We recommend taking the steps one at a time. Move both feet to the same step before moving on to the next step. This ensures that you don’t get unbalanced.
How to Fall
If you’re about to go down, lean forward! Leaning forward helps ensure that the back of your head and spine don’t take the impact. If you can manage, aim to fall on your side as your hips, thigh, and shoulder are some of the harder bones in the body. Falling on your wrist, back, or arms is a little more dangerous and can lead to more broken bones. We know it is hard, but try to relax your muscles as you fall. Tension exacerbates injuries, while loose muscles can help cushion the impact.
In snowy, icy weather, pay attention and use the tips outlines above to stay safe. If you do fall, don’t hesitate to call us–we can help quicken the healing process. But we know you will follow the tips and stay safe!!