Winters in North Dakota sure can be tough. Between the negative temperatures and what seems to be constant snow blowing, it can seem never ending. In addition to the monster snow build ups, the ice makes it a constant safety hazard especially if you already have balance issues! Balance issues can stem from a variety of different reasons. To list a few, it could be a specific medication, a cardiovascular issue, muscle weakness, or sensory issues with your eyes, ears, or feet. If you or a loved one has been dealing with balance issues for quite some time and you don’t feel comfortable walking outside in the winter months because of your balance issues, ask your provider if physical therapy would be beneficial for you! It’s hard to predict whether a fall can happen, but you can still reduce the potential for falls by following a few simple tips.
Tip #1: Take your time!
Accidents seem to happen when you’re rushed! If you know it takes 15 minutes to get to your destination, give yourself 20 minutes. You have no idea what the terrain looks like, if there’s traffic, you’re going to feel even more rushed and that’s going to put you at even greater risk of potential slips and falls if you are rushing in and out of your vehicle.
Tip #2: Walk like a penguin.
Did you know that one species of penguins can swim up to speeds of 22 mph? Interesting right? What’s even more interesting is that their walking style can help prevent falls on the ice. To walk like a penguin, you bend your knees, shuffle side to side avoiding taking big steps, and extend your arms out to the side. This will help you maintain your center of gravity when you’re walking on icy surfaces.
Tip #3: Keep your driveway and walkways clear.
Pretty obvious right? I understand this can be difficult especially when we get hit with snowstorm after snowstorm. However, if there is a snowstorm and your driveway is covered, try to stay home if you can. Do an at home workout to get that daily exercise in!
Tip #4: Consider winter assistive devices.
These devices are low cost (<$10 bucks on amazon) and can be used to give you more traction in icy terrain. The only drawback is you have to put them on before you leave the house, and take them off before you go into a building as the shoe spikes can be a safety hazard if you use them on tile flooring. Also, you probably shouldn’t bring them in with you to the airport. Just a thought.
I hope these tips help! If you are interested in more information on Balance and Falls in the Wintertime or in general, we have an upcoming seminar on Thursday January 30th at 10:00am where we’ll dive deeper into this topic. Call our office at 701-293-6037 and ask to RSVP for the upcoming seminar. If you already know you have something you want to speak with a PT about, call our office to set up a free consult today! Limited spots available that are filling up fast.
Casey Sailer, PT, DPT
Total Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness