Smart Moves to Help You Avoid Slips and Falls This Winter

Seniors walking in snow

“In icy weather, people are vulnerable to slipping when they’re on uneven ground,” says John Feldman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Jersey City Medical Center and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group. “That’s especially true in the city, where uneven sidewalks and curbs can make navigation difficult.” Potential perils also lurk indoors, as ice gets tracked in near doorways, melts and becomes a slipping hazard. He offers these simple guidelines for an injury-free season:

John Feldman, MD
John Feldman, MD

Keep arms free if possible. “We’ve evolved to walk upright, and when we walk, without our even thinking about it, our arms provide a natural counterbalance to our gait,” says Dr. Feldman. “Carrying a briefcase, grocery bag or tote bag means you’re not well-balanced and also are less ready to catch yourself if you do fall. Consider using a backpack or anything else that will keep your arms free.”

Stow your smartphone. “It’s essential not to become distracted, especially when walking in a city environment with a lot of foot traffic and street traffic,” says Dr. Feldman.

Opt for a treaded sole. “It’s very important to wear boots in the winter, or anything with a good tread on the sole,” says Dr. Feldman. “If your work shoes don’t have those, don’t wear them on your commute. Bring your work shoes with you to change into.”

Walk flat-footed. “When you walk with a flat foot, you maximize the area in which your feet touch the ground. Keep knees slightly bent, slow down and take shorter-than-usual strides to avoid slipping,” says Dr. Feldman.

Consider a walking aid. Options include a trekking pole, walking stick, cane or walker. “For older people, especially, balance issues make falls more of a risk. Keep in mind that the best treatment for falls is prevention,” says Dr. Feldman. “Also, if you’re having trouble with balance, a physical therapist can give you really good exercises to strengthen your core muscles.”

What to Do If You Fall

  • Elevate the injured extremity to prevent swelling.
  • Wrap the injured area with an ACE bandage or compression wrap.
  • See your primary care provider to determine whether you need X-rays or to see a specialist.

Go to the Emergency Department if:

  • You can’t bear weight on a foot or leg, or lift your arm, without extreme pain.
  • The limb has an obvious deformity, indicating that a bone is broken.

Jersey City Medical Center offers orthopedic services at 355 Grand Street and also at our Newport location, 100 Town Square Place, Jersey City.