Ice, Ice, baby: Get geared, don’t slip!

It’s dangerous for everyone, but for the elderly, pregnant women, parents carrying small children or workers carrying equipment, or for those who otherwise have balance or mobility issues, the likelihood of slipping on ice increases. For people with osteoporosis and other health conditions, the risk of significant injury also increases.

According to data from the National Safety Council in 2014, 25,000 slip, trip and fall accidents occur daily in the US. Snow, ice and freezing temps in the winter multiply the number of wet and slippery surfaces at work and the potential for accidents. The majority happen in parking lots, roadways, driveways and walkways where individuals travel on foot between their worksites and vehicles.

Practically all injuries from slips and falls on snow and ice fall under the classification of “traumatic injuries.” These injuries range from minor bruises, cuts and abrasions to serious bone fractures, spinal cord damage and concussions.

And sometimes, you don’t even know when it’s there. Black ice is one of the most feared hazards of winter. It is virtually impossible to see to those walking or driving on it.

So what can you do to help prevent falls for you and your loved ones when conditions are icy?

Get some Yak Trax, Nano spikes or Micro spikes. They fit over your boots, and each of these are good quality and hold up over time, and worth the expense. I have previously bought some cheaper ones available in the checkout lines of stores that rip or fall apart almost immediately with wear. Here are some quick tips about when each might be the best option:

  1. Yak Trax: Best for elderly and children. They are the easiest option to get on over shoes, they are not sharp, and they are good for use on sidewalks and parking lots. . They are safe for the carpet, and gentle on hardwood floors if you walk carefully. However, I have found that they can slip like crazy on a hard, wet indoor surface like tile.
  2. Nano spikes: Great slip control on icy surfaces with little traction “stubs”, and still suitable for sidewalks as well as other surfaces. More expensive and a little more challenging to put on. Will scratch indoor hard floor surfaces. They feel even more stable than Yak Trax.
  3.  Micro spikes: These are little crampons, and they are wonderful for off-pavement, off road hikes. They can take you up and down icy hills. They will definitely shred your carpet and floors, so don’t put on indoors, and they are not very comfortable for wear on pavement.

Off the ice, practice your balance exercises. Yoga “tree” and “airplane” poses are great for improving your balance. Simply raising one leg at a time for a few moments while balancing on the other, is another good way to practice. I also often recommend that patients practice by standing with feet hip width apart, and simply swaying from side to side slowly, then back and forth, and even diagonally, to get used the feeling of shifting your weight comfortably. This helps to train your sense of proprioception, or perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. Always have a stable piece of furniture to grab onto, or practice near a wall for support.

Stay safe this season!

Image result for ice skating

Cora Rivard, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic family doctor and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC, in Derry, NH, an hour north of Boston. Website:



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