This year, Torontonians have endured icier conditions then typical. The freezing temperatures, ice storms, sleet and regular snowfalls have left the city in a slippery state. Icy patches on our driveways, walkways and sidewalks are leading to an increased rate of slips and falls and overall increasing the incidence of broken bones, sprains and strains. We are already noticing the impact of this year’s weather at our clinic where we seeing a larger proportion of individuals with weather related injuries and accidents.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, since 2006 on average each year there have been on average 7223 hospitalizations annually as a result of falls on ice. The majority of these cases occurred in individuals that were over 50 years of age. These figures exclude cases that were treated outside of a hospital setting such as walk-in clinics, physiotherapy clinics and other facilities that provide primary care for musculoskeletal injuries.
Given that this is a huge issue, our practitioners have put our heads together and come up with a list of precautions that you should take to reduce your risk of falling on the ice this winter.
- Wear footwear that provides traction such as winter boots that have a rubber sole. You can also purchase external traction devices that you can strap onto your shoes.
- Be sure to shovel the snow properly on your driveway and walkways. Snow patches that are not shoveled properly will likely turn into ice when the temperature drops low. Also, if you notice there is ice on your driveway, be sure to scrape the ice. Please read our previous blog on shoveling smart to avoid back pain. If you cannot shovel your own snow be sure to ask for help from your friends, family or neighbours. You may also consider hiring someone to help you.
- Salt your driveway and walkways. Sprinkling salt after you have cleared your driveway and walkways will help to prevent ice from forming.
- Ice typically forms over night when the temperature drops and melts during the day when the sun is out. Be particularly careful if you are outdoors at night or first thing in the morning when there can be new ice that has formed and when there is especially poor visibility.
- Walk slowly and carefully on icy and snowy patches. Be sure to take small and deliberate steps and give yourself extra time to get where you are going.
- If possible, try to avoid areas with poor lighting.
- Be proactive about black ice. Remember that black ice can be hidden under fresh snow and also can look like a wet pavement. If you are unsure about what’s ahead, be sure to walk slowly and cautiously.
- Use handrails if available while walking on stairs so that you can catch yourself if you slip.
- If possible, try to avoid climbing over snowbanks. Take an alternate route instead even if it looks longer.
- Avoid keeping your hands in your pockets while walking. Having both hands free will help you balance better and it will be easier to catch yourself from falling if you slip.
- Practice exercises that improve your balance as well as exercises that will strengthen your lower body and core. Having better balance means you are less likely to fall and injure yourself. Try this simple exercise: stand and balance on one leg for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Start with your eyes open but if that’s too easy try it with your eyes closed.
If you would like guidance on developing a strength and balance program that is right for you, feel free to book a consultation with one of our physiotherapists or Pilates instructors. We can work with you to develop a program that is individualized and specific to your unique goals and needs.