FOCUS ON HEALTH
By Dr Virginia Nsitem
The winter season is a fun time to enjoy outdoor sports and seasonal activities but it can be a dangerous time for slip and fall injuries. Sidewalks and pathways are often covered in ice and snow and indoor floors are often slippery, slushy, and wet. There are several steps to follow to prevent a slip and fall injury, and tips to remember if you have suffered a slip and fall accident.
Prevention of slip and fall accidents
- Avoid traveling out in dangerous conditions, such as freezing rain. Wait until the city plows and salt trucks have had a chance to clear the roads and sidewalks before venturing out after a severe snow storm.
- Clear the pathways around your own home to keep you, your family, and your visitors safe.
- Wear proper footwear that provides good grip and traction on slippery surfaces.
- Prevent scarves and hats from obstructing your view. You should be able to see your path clearly.
- Don’t overload! Do not attempt to carry many heavy bags, or large objects for even short distances. It is more difficult to keep your balance when your hands are full.
- Be aware! Always walk with caution on sidewalks and in parking lots when stepping on ground that is covered in snow as there may be ice or uneven ground underneath the snowy layer.
- When entering a home or business place, be careful not to slip on wet surfaces or trip on rugs.
- Utilize grab bars, railings, and other secure devices when climbing stairs.
- Inform the owner of the property of your accident, so that he/she can take the necessary steps to ensure the area is safe for others.
Common slip and fall injuries
- Head injuries and concussion – Falling and landing on your head can lead to a head injury or concussion. You do not need to lose consciousness to suffer a concussion. Symptoms of concussion include headaches, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
- Whiplash-type neck injuries – A common reaction to falling is an attempt to gain balance. This can cause a rapid forward and backward movement of the neck resulting in a whiplash-type injury or sprain and strain injury of the neck. Symptoms of whiplash injury include neck pain and stiffness, headache, upper shoulder pain, and pain that radiates down the arms.
- Wrist injuries – It is a natural reaction to reach out to break your fall or grab onto a stable object to prevent your fall. Falling on an outstretched hand can lead to injuries at the wrist, elbow and even shoulder. Common symptoms include sharp pain, swelling, and even bruising at the joint, and difficulty moving the joint.
- Back sprain and strain injuries – Twisting the body as your try to gain balance can lead to sprain and strain injuries of the back. Falling on the hip or buttock can cause soft tissue injuries in those areas. Falling forwards on the chest can cause chest and rib pain. Symptoms of injuries to the areas include muscle spasms, pain and tenderness of the muscles, difficulty moving the spine, standing up straight, sitting, or walking, and pain with deep breaths.
- Knee injuries – Falling and landing on the knees can lead to sprains, strains, and contusions. Symptoms of knee joint injuries after a fall include stiffness, swelling and bruising, difficulty moving the joint, and difficulty walking, climbing stairs, and standing.
- Cuts and scrapes – Slipping and falling can lead to minor superficial injuries that often do not require emergency care. If there is significant bleeding, it is always best to seek treatment at a nearby hospital as you may require stitches to treat the wound.
- Fractures – Fracturing or breaking a bone is a serious concern, especially for older patients. It is possible to be able to move a body part even if there is a fracture in the bone. Some specific symptoms of a fractured bone include pain and swelling, loss of movement, strength or function, and change in the appearance or the alignment of the bone (deformity).
What treatments are helpful?
The first goal before therapy is to diagnose the injury. Visit your nearest emergency department, urgent care clinic, family physician, or chiropractor for an assessment and diagnosis. There are serious injuries that can result from a slip and fall accident, and these must be ruled out before starting a rehabilitation program. A physician may order x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRI studies to get a clear picture of the bones, discs, joints, nerves, and soft tissues related to your injury. The rehabilitation program will be determined based on the type of injury you have sustained. Treatments for simple injuries and rehabilitation after medical treatment for more serious injuries can include:
- Treatment with modalities such as LASER therapy, heat and ice applications to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Chiropractic treatments, joint mobilization, manual traction, and mechanical traction are important features of a rehabilitation program to reduce pain, and restore proper movement and function to the injured areas.
- Massage and acupuncture are complimentary therapies that can reduce pain as you become more active.
- Specific stretching and strengthening exercises help you return to your regular activities at home, work, and recreation.
- Balance exercises help develop your core strength, improve your agility, and give you added confidence as you return to your normal life.
Stop the Pain … Before it Stops You!
(Dr. Virginia Nsitem is a chiropractor specializing in laser therapy for muscle, joint, and nerve injuries, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences in Canada. She may be reached at (905) 275-4993, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)