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Preventing winter falls

By David Freidson | Posted: Monday, January 19, 2015 4:00 pm

“The highest function of a specialty is to prevent that which it treats,” Jan Jirout, MD (1956).

I’ve been treating a lot of slips and falls lately, and I thought it timely to write a column on preventing them.

In movies and TV shows, falling often produces snickering — but falling is no laughing matter. According to the CDC, 17,000 people die each year due to slips and falls.

Some other interesting statistics on falling:

1 in 3 people over 65 fall each year.

Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.

8.9 million visits to the emergency room each year are due to falls.

Falls are the leading cause of non fatal medically treated injuries in the US.

29 percent of work comp cases in MN are due to slips and falls.

5 percent of falls cause bone fractures.

20-30 percent of falls cause injury.

There is a good example in the animal kingdom of how to walk on ice and slippery surfaces: the penguin. Walking like a penguin is what is taught to prevent falls — feet pointed out to the side, head up, short shuffling steps and arms out to the side.

Try not to carry much, if anything, in your hands when you know you’re going to be walking outside. If you bring a briefcase to work, one with a strap you can put over your shoulder is best, and a backpack is better yet.

Many falls happen getting out of a car. When exiting a vehicle it is important to have a 3 point contact: both hands on the car and one foot out, for example, then both feet on the ground and one hand on the car.

Try to wear slip resistant shoes. If you only wear dress shoes at work, keep them at the office and wear boots while commuting. If you can’t leave your shoes at work then put a rubber-over shoe on top of the shoe. “Gripper shoes” give great traction and are good to wear even if you’re not going far, but have a steep driveway and have to go down to get the paper or mail.

Know that even though you’ve made it inside, you’re still vulnerable to slipping. The entrances of buildings and homes are often wear falls occur.

You may not be prone to slips and falls, but that doesn’t mean people coming to your home or workplace aren’t. And it is often on you if someone falls at your home or place of work. So make sure you clear off snow as quickly as you can and apply deicer as needed.

Remember, if you’re in a hurry a fall is going to slow you down a lot more than the increased time it takes to be a bit cautious.

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about falling in the winter. If you have pain afterward, get checked out by a doctor. I treat people who have injuries due to falling every day, and I’d be happy to assess you.

Dr. David Freidson is a licensed chiropractor and works out of the Synergy Health & Rehabilitation office in Wayzata. To learn more, or call (952) 475-4080.

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