4 Ways to Prevent Falls this Winter

February 02, 2016 | Chiropractic, Wellness, Winter

Last winter, I remember taking a nasty fall on a sidewalk in the Byward Market. I fell in a very cartoonish way – both feet lifted off the ground at once and I landed straight on my back, which was fortunately protected by a well-padded backpack. I didn’t get hurt, but before I even had the chance to get back on my feet, a man working on the building in front of which I just made a fool of myself yelled out: “You’re the third person I have seen fall on that patch of ice today!” My initial response was “how about you come spread some salt before someone gets really injured!” I went on my way, made sure to be a good neighbour and spread salt on my own bit of sidewalk to prevent falls, and got adjusted by my chiropractor.

In an ideal world, every shop owner and resident would keep the little piece of sidewalk in front of their property ice free to help prevent falls – but since that can’t be expected, here are some tips to keep you safe while walking on ice or along the canal this winter.

Walk like a penguin

We should strive to emulate the penguin. The penguin evolved perfectly to live on ice – there is a thing or two we could learn from its way of walking.

  • Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground.
  •  Point your feet out
  • Keep your center of gravity above your feet
  • Look where you’re going
  • Take small shuffling steps
  •  Keep your hands alongside your body and out of your pockets
  • Move slowly

Equip yourself

On icy days, you can equip your boots with cleats for extra traction. If your balance is an issue, consider using a cane or a walker with a cleat on the end. Avoid high heel boots.

Train your balance

There are many muscles in your legs and core that keep you upright. The stronger they are, the easier they will keep you upright if you were to slip. The following exercises, if done regularly, can help:

1. Standing on one foot

a. Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.
b. Hold the position for up to 10 seconds, repeating 10-15 times.
c. Repeat 10 to 15 times with the other leg.

2. Walking heel to toe

a. Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.
b. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.
c. Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot.
d. Repeat for 20 steps.

3. Balance walk

a. Raise arms to sides, shoulder height.
b. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk.
c. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other.
d. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for 1 second before stepping forward.
e. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

4. Back leg raises

a. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.
b. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Try not to lean forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
c. Hold the position for 1 second.
d. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg.
e. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg.

5. Side leg raises

a. Stand behind a sturdy chair with feet slightly apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.
b. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg out to the side. Keep your back straight and your toes facing forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
c. Hold the position for 1 second.
d. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg.
e. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each leg.

Fall properly

Practice makes perfect! If you are older or prone to falls, you can even practice falling on your bed several times every morning; this man does and shares his tips and tricks for safe falling.

Our chiropractors offer free workshops on Preventing Falls at the clinic and in the community. Contact us to find out more.

We hope these simple tips will help prevent many falls this winter. However, if like me, you forget yourself and take a tumble, make sure you mention it to your chiropractor. They’ll know how to straighten you up and prevent a small injury from getting worse.

To book an appointment, call 613.860.8600 for our Byward location, and 613.237.9000 for our Glebe location.

Stay safe out there!