Column: How can I avoid winter falls?


Commentary by Camden Burns


Snow and ice are the foundation for many enjoyable winter activities, but falling shouldn’t be one of them. Follow these tactics to keep winter weather from taking a toll on your health:

  • Practice good fall prevention. Wear rubber-soled shoes and use railings on outdoor stairways and sloped surfaces. Elderly people and those with disabilities should always walk with assistance in dangerous conditions. Limit outdoor activities during inclement weather and at night when ice may be more difficult to see.
  • Perform outdoor maintenance. Remove snow and ice from steps and walkways, and be sure to have de-icing agents on hand for those known slippery areas. Keep outdoor walking areas well-lit and in good repair. If possible, consider having a professional shovel your drive and walkways instead of doing it yourself to decrease the risk of injury.
  • Reroute your walking path. Avoid slippery surfaces. If your front porch is icy, consider going out through the garage or back door.
  • Get fit. Exercise can help build and maintain strength and improve balance. Good balance helps reduce the risk of falling.
  • Know your risk. Falls are dangerous for everyone, especially individuals with osteoporosis. Patients with osteoporosis are at an increased risk for fractures of the hip, shoulder, wrist and spine. If you think you might be prone to falls, talk with your doctor and take steps to prevent injuries from happening.

What’s the difference between a sprain and a fracture? 

A fracture is a break in the bone while a sprain is a tear in the ligaments between the bones around joints. Minor sprains can cause pain, swelling and bruising while severe sprains can cause symptoms as severe as a broken bone. 

For minor pain where you can still bear weight, follow the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation. If you cannot bear weight, you should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Dr. Camden Burns is an orthopedics and sports medicine specialist at IU Health North Hospital.

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