Slipping and sliding may be fun for kids as they sled, but for the rest of us trying to traverse parking lots and make it safely home, well, not so much.
Winter levels the playing field for anyone who sets foot outside.
And it’s not only senior citizens who have to worry about falling. A recent study found that the risk of fracture due to falls more than doubles in icy conditions—and that injuries occurred more often for people ages 30 to 60 than for those older than 60.
Just ask Katrina, a local executive and mother of two.
In the winter of 2013, she was walking through a snowy parking lot at the end of a long day. Carrying a bag and a purse, and wearing what she calls sensible heels, she was more concerned with the condition of the roads on her drive home than about getting to her car.
A moment later, Katrina was flat on her back in the ice and snow, and in such pain she was unable to get up without help. She was lucky not to break any bones, but her spinal injuries were quite severe and marked the beginning of months of tests, missed work and debilitating pain.
Each day, Katrina could barely get out of bed, and the pain was so intense that she was exhausted by the time she managed to get dressed.
“Imagine crying when you try to put on socks,” Katrina recalled. “That was the worst. I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. I’d never been so restricted, and had never experienced anything close to that kind of pain—not even giving birth to my kids.”
Her drive to work, once she tried to return, was almost unbearable. She had a standing work station installed, but walking sent shockwaves down her hip.
At her wit’s end, Katrina sought help from Nora Crotty, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Spectrum Health Medical Group. After reviewing imaging studies and a complete exam, Dr. Crotty prescribed a new regimen of physical therapy.
Katrina admits she was skeptical, as previous attempts at therapy had been unsuccessful. But with Dr. Crotty’s encouragement, she agreed to give it a try.
“My therapist was fantastic,” Katrina said. “With Dr. Crotty’s guidance and focusing on very specific areas, the shooting pain began to subside. A few months later, I was actually able to get dressed without pain.
“It sounds silly, but it was life-changing to feel like myself again. I gained appreciation for people who live with chronic pain and back problems.”
These days, Katrina wears high-traction winter boots and takes more care when walking through ice and snow.
And you should do the same. Simple falls can lead to back injuries, ankle and wrist fractures, and broken hips.
Here are 8 ways you can stay in one piece this winter:
- Keep your own walkways salted and clear. Many spills happen right on the front porch.
- Choose to walk in snow accumulation rather than icy patches. Snow is safer.
- Wear your boots to the car and carry your shoes in a bag. Both men’s and women’s footwear, with their smooth soles and heels, invite trouble.
- Walk like a penguin. If your co-workers snicker, you may have the last laugh. Keeping your feet close to the pavement in short steps improves your balance.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets so you can catch yourself if you fall.
- Wear a backpack instead of carrying a bag, to keep your hands and arms free.
- Never walk in the road. Vehicles slide.
- Take your time. Adding a 15-minute cushion lets you walk safely to your building.