The White stuff is here in West Michigan and it’s getting cold outside. Its is a time for sledding, snowmen, skiing, snowball fights, and school cancellations. It is also a time for weather-related slips, trips, and falls on icy surfaces. These injuries can trigger (or re-aggravate) spinal problems. This can lead to neck pain, back pain, sciatica, and headaches. Of course, the doctors of Zehr Chiropractic are well equipped to treat these when injuries when we see them, but the following steps may help you prevent such an injury.
1. Maintain your own driveway and sidewalk. Although you cannot control how well your grocer, pharmacist, or bank takes care of their pavement, you can take steps to maintain your own property, which is where you are more likely to fall. When snow is in the forecast, put down a layer of salt the night before to help prevent freezing. Set your alarm a bit earlier to account for the extra time needed for shoveling (and driving!) in the morning. I know you’re thinking “Set my alarm early?! That’s crazy talk! How am I going to get my sleep!?!?” I hate to break it to you, but if you were to watch one less sitcom at night (or make a few less Facebook updates), you would have more than enough time to turn in to a bit early. Madness, I know.
In regards to actually removing snow, it is ideal to remove the snow as soon as possible, before it becomes packed and turns to ice. Once the snow is removed, apply another layer of salt. For those of you who live by the “Work smarter, not harder” mantra, there is always “Liquid Snow Shovel.” This stuff is pretty cool so give it a shot, if you wish. I have no idea what’s in it or what ecological implications are present, but I know it works. Our local equipment rental store sells the stuff.
If you live in an apartment complex or condo where snow removal is done by a third party, let management know if things are not taken care of properly. If they give you grief, just let them know that you’ve got a team of lawyers ready for the inevitable spill you’re going to take and that wrist fractures are much more expensive than snow maintenance.
2. Wear proper footwear at all times! “But I just look so much prettier in my 6 inch pumps!” Okay. How good do you think you will look waddling around like a duck because you fractured your tailbone? Wearing any type of shoe with a smooth sol is just asking for trouble , especially high heels since there is less surface area in contact with the ground (high heels are murder on your spine even on a good day; a topic for another day).
What’s great is that you no longer have to wear 13 pound mukluks when the snow flies. Sportswear companies wear winter boots that are light, comfortable, and pretty cool looking. I wear my waterproof hiking boots to work and just bring my “work shoes” along with me. In addition to wearing better footwear in the elements, I keep the slush and salt off my nice shoes, which is a plus. If you really don’t want to have to go that route, you should consider wearing Yaktrax or similar slip-on products in order to maintain traction on the ice and snow while wearing your normal shoes.
3. Walk cautiously and deliberately. Often when a patient begins to tell their story about how they fell, it starts with “Well, I was in a hurry…” Again, make extra time to get to your destination, especially if you have to walk a considerable distance. Carry your items in a bag or backpack to keep your hands free in case you do slip. Keep your weight slightly forward (to prevent falling backward and hitting the back of your head on the pavement). Bend your knees slightly and take low, short steps. The extra time it takes is well worth it, especially if it saves you a trip to urgent care.
4. If you do fall, do not take your injuries lightly. If any part of your head strikes the ground, you should be evaluated for a head injury, especially if you experience any of the following: dizziness, memory problems, vision problems, bleeding, fluid drainage, headache, vomiting, or visions of pink elephants.
As with any musculoskeletal injury, a trip to go see your Doctor of Chiropractic may be in order, as well. Underlying spinal problems may be present even in the pain diminishes once the soft tissue heals. Many of my patients consult me because of symptoms that appeared “out of the blue,” yet low and behold they later remember that they had a fall on the ice a month or two prior to the onset of their symptoms. The take home message is that with any condition, early detection and treatment is essential for the best outcome. However, if you follow the aforementioned steps, you can decreased the likelihood of falling down in the first place.