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Six Strategies for Avoiding Winter Falls

Posted 2/9/2015 by UHBlog

The snowy winter months are prime time for orthopaedic injuries resulting from falls, such as strains, sprains and fractures. To prevent falling this winter season, use these six simple strategies:

  1. Wear appropriate footwear when walking outside – even if it’s just from the parking lot to inside a building. Your best option is a pair of winter boots with rubber or neoprene soles, which provide good traction when you’re walking.
  2. Take extra care when you get in or out of your car. This is when many injuries occur. To prevent falling, support yourself on your car door or the vehicle parked next to you.
  3. When walking over icy or snow-covered surfaces, extend your arms to provide balance. Avoid walking with objects in your hands, such as your phone or travel mug.
  4. Walk with short, shuffling steps, with your toes curled under and your feet as flat as possible. It also helps to keep your center of gravity low and turn your feet out slightly.
  5. Walk more slowly than you normally do. Rushing may cause you to fall.
  6. When you enter a building, stomp your feet to remove any excess snow from your boots. Snow-covered boots can be slippery on hard floors.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll suffer a fall. If you do feel yourself starting to fall, relax your muscles and try to land on a fleshy part of your body, such as your side. Trying to ‘break’ your fall with your arms may lead to an injury of your wrist, elbow or hand.

For minor injuries resulting from falls on the snow or ice, self-care measures will sometimes suffice, says Michael Salata, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and Director of the Joint Preservation and Cartilage Restoration Center at University Hospitals, and Associate Team Physician for the Cleveland Browns. “If the injury doesn’t seem too severe, you can try the four steps of R.I.C.E.: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You can also try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).”

However, some slip-and-fall injuries require medical attention, Dr. Salata says. “If you are unable to walk after an injury or can bear weight only with great pain, it’s best to seek medical care, either at an emergency room or from a physician with experience in musculoskeletal injuries, such as one of our non-surgical orthopaedic sports medicine physicians.” Other signs that warrant medical attention include persistent swelling or an injury that doesn’t improve over a week or two, Dr. Salata says.

Non-surgical orthopaedic specialists are available at several locations throughout the UH system. To make an appointment with a health care provider near you, call 866-UH4-CARE.

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