4 Tips to Avoid Slips and Falls this Winter Season

Winter in Edmonton is full of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the many recreational pursuits available only during the cold season, like skating, skiing and snowshoeing. But it’s also the time of year when people come to our clinic with fall-related injuries from slippery surfaces. At Innovation Physical Therapy, we genuinely enjoy spending time with our patients – but we’d also like to share some ways to keep you safe and free from slips and spills this winter.

Thousands of Canadians, young and old, will take a tumble on an icy sidewalk this winter; fortunately, most of these falls will be relatively minor and will only result in a bruise to the ego! But for some of us, these injuries will be more severe and require medical attention. Injuries that can occur with a fall include bone fractures, concussions, joint dislocations, muscle strains, cuts and bruises.

Between 5,000-10,000 Canadians are hospitalized for falls each year. The vast majority of these people are over 50, and sadly, for many, these falls can lead to many other health problems. So rather than accepting a winter spill as an inevitable part of living in the Northern hemisphere, let’s review some tips for staying upright this season.

Slipping and falling in snow
putting spikes on shoes
Standing on one foot

Here are some strategies to avoid a fall this winter:

  1. Learn to walk like a penguin! Yes, shuffling instead of walking is one of the best ways to maintain balance on an icy surface. Like a penguin walks, you can turn your feet out slightly, take small steps and walk with flat feet. Check out this video to learn more about the waddle!
  2. Adjust your standing position to maximize your chances of staying upright. Don’t carry items in your hands; they can break a fall if necessary. A wider stance will create a more significant centre of balance, so take a slight bend in the knees to adjust to uneven surfaces and walk more slowly than you would in warm weather conditions.
  3. The best way to avoid a fall is through prevention. There are many exercises your physio can show you to improve your balance and increase lower body mobility and stability, just in case it’s needed. You can do this simple test to assess your balance: balance standing on just one foot and time yourself. If you can’t maintain a steady position for one full minute without using your hands for support, you might have a balance issue that needs further investigation and attention. It’s much easier to maintain balance than try to regain it later.
  4. There are many options for devices to minimize the risk of falls in slippery conditions. Examples include traction devices for footwear (such as Yak Trax) and walking poles. If you don’t have access to these, at least wear flat-heeled shoes with rubber-soled grips.

What can you expect during a Vestibular Rehab session?

A proper vestibular rehab assessment can be lengthy but must be thorough.

You can expect the following:

  • Discussion about the history and nature of your symptoms
  • Screening for a more severe cause of dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Evaluation of eye movements assisted by infrared video-analysis
  • Testing for sensitivity to motion or position change
  • Evaluation of stationary and moving balance
  • Testing other areas that could be contributing, like neck problems or blood-pressure

Following the assessment, a wide variety of treatment options are available. The treatments can include eye exercises, training to reduce sensitivity, balance challenges, and strategies for dealing with cognitive and psychological impacts.

The balance retraining done as part of vestibular rehab is also helpful for clients who may not have a vestibular problem but may have orthopedic, sensory, or other brain-related disorders affecting their equilibrium.

How Innovation Physio Can Help

If you or a loved one has taken a tumble in previous winters or you’re worried about your ability to stay upright this year, then book an assessment with your physical therapist to evaluate your potential fall risk and create a tailored exercise plan to keep you safe. Your physio can evaluate your gait and balance to assess potential risk factors. At Innovation, we know that falls are accidental, but there are many ways that we can help you to reduce your risk and stay injury-free during the cold season!

Please book an appointment with one of Innovation Physical Therapy’s experienced physiotherapists by calling one of our six clinics throughout Edmonton, including RiverbendBelvedereNamao, or Southgate.

Innovation Physical Therapy is here to help you love getting better!