The F-word: Quick Tips on Fall Prevention

By: Dr. Tanvi Maharaja

We officially entered winter on 12/21/2020, the winter solstice. As the festival season ensues, so does the snow! And while we probably look forward to a white Christmas, it is a good time to think of all the precautions one should take as the snow piles up and the pathways freeze to ice.

  • The penguin walk: Walking with your feet turned out slightly, flat-footed as possible and curling your toes under, gives you a wider base of support and helps with maintaining a centered center of gravity. Take small shuffling steps, and watch your step. An erect, upright posture is not necessary.
  • Walk cautiously: Walk with small, well-measured steps. Avoid the tendency to tuck your hands inside your pockets (although that feels so nice and warm!). Our arms help us with our balance, so keep them out of those pockets. Also, we are getting used to the masks, make sure they are not fogging up your glasses as you step out. Get that mask snug around the nose and under the bridge of the glasses, so you can see where you are going.
  • Carrying any loads, especially heavy bags and purses, is not advised as this increases the chances of injuries and falls. Ditch that heavy bag for a light, cross-body purse. 
  • No running or sprinting please: Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going. As tempting as it can be, quickening your step even for a few seconds can turn into an unfortunate incident if there is unforeseen ice that may make your shoe slide. 
  • The right footwear: The more grip your shoe has, the better it will hold on to the ice. Select footwear that will allow appropriate traction and hold, such as those with rubber soles.
  • Indoors: Be careful with those first few steps as you enter a building. Ice or snow from previous footfalls tends to collect at the entrance and create a fall hazard. If you do notice a build up, alert the appropriate personnel so that this can be taken care of and avoid accidents.
  • Be careful getting out of your car. It is easy to get distracted with getting oriented, making sure you got all your belongings, and the lights have been turned off, to forget that you are about to step out into what is more or less unfamiliar territory. You do not exactly know the conditions on the ground until you step out. So be alert and stay focused.
  • For folks with balance issues, using a quad cane with good rubber soles is a good idea when venturing outdoors. It provides more traction than a regular cane and can come in handy when the slope is slippery, literally!
  • If you do happen to sustain a fall, seek medical help immediately. Occult fractures such as vertebral compression fractures, and wrist injuries, ankle sprains with small avulsion fractures, or hip fractures to an already weak bone are common and often dismissed by patients as blunt trauma. It is important to have a healthcare professional take a look and rule them out. 
  • If you do feel that you are about to fall, try and land on a fleshy part of your body such as the side, avoiding bony areas such as wrists, knees, or back. FOOSH (fall on outstretched hand) injuries are common with falls, as the natural reaction on falling is to stretch your hand out and try to prevent the head from hurting. Regular exercise including aerobic exercise and balance training can go a long way to preventing falls. Strength training is equally important. Falls prevention programs at your local hospital can help you with this training. 

If you have family or neighbors that are elderly, keep an eye out for them. Maybe help with cleaning up their doorstep or driveway, or offer to do a quick coffee run for them so they don’t need to step out for trivial things. 

Stays prepared, stay alert and focused. Let’s get the “F” word out of our lives!

Enjoy the holiday season and stay safe folks.

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