Winter

How to walk safely on ice with pain in your lower back, knee, hip or ankle?

AUTHOR
Doris Ward
REVIEWED BY
Kedar Angirus, MD
April 19, 2022

At Anooka, most of our team enjoys the frigid canadian winters from as far east as Prince Edward Island, touching frosty Toronto before heading northwest to Prince George!

Wintertime can be a wonderful time for getting fresh air, being social, and enjoying different outdoor activities. Getting out in the winter for these activities and doing them safely is important.

There are ways to stay safe during the winter months while walking in the snow and on ice.

In this article we are sharing a few tips to walk safely on ice.

Walking Tips

  • Make sure you have the right footwear.
  • Keep your eye gaze forward and avoid leaning forward.
  • If you are using a cane, you can buy an ice pick for the cane.
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough time for the route you have chosen.
  • Choose cleared paths and avoid shortcuts that haven’t yet been cleared.
  • Keep your hands free, this will help with your balance.
  • It’s fair to assume that all wet, dark areas on the pavement may be slippery or icy, do your best to walk around them.
  • When available, use handrails and ramps.

Walking on Ice

We understand there is an element of fear with walking in the winter months. Icy surfaces can be one of the reasons people choose not to walk in the wintertime but if you follow the below guidelines the next time you face an ice patch, you will feel more confident and safe:

  • 1. Slow your pace down and be mindful about your next move. Allow your body and muscles to stay loose, keep a wide stance for a strong base of support. This will help stabilize you as you walk.
  • 2. Allow your knees to be soft and loose along with keeping a little bend in them. This action keeps your center of gravity lower to the ground which further stabilizes you.
  • 3. You are ready to take your next step. Make it small, placing your whole foot down in one step. Then shift your weight slowly to this foot and bring your opposite foot to meet it in the same manner. Continue keeping your wide base of support and soft knees.
  • 4. If it feels more comfortable to do so, you can drag or shuffle your feet. Some people choose this over steps. Just remember to place your whole foot on the ice at once and keep your base of support at least one foot wide.

Walking on ice is nothing to S.K.O.F. (scoff) at Remember this acronym next time you come upon an icy surface: SKOF Slow your pace, Knee bend, One next step, Foot placement to be whole.

Now you can SKOF about walking on ice! You are equipped to meet icy patches with more confidence.

Clothing

Fabric: Layers are key. The bottom layer can be synthetic, the middle layer light, and the top/outer layer can be waterproof and breathable. High-tech synthetic fabrics make a big difference in comfort, they help you wick away sweat and keep you dry. Running specific or wool blend socks are best to keep your feet dry even if you aren’t running. Cotton socks won’t keep your feet dry. Wearing a scarf and/or mask to protect your exposed skin on especially cold days is important. Lastly, gloves, hat, sunglasses, and yes sunblock too. Protecting your skin year-round is important.

Exercises

Walking in the wintertime can be tricky especially when we come upon a patch of ice. It helps if we have a good foundation of balance built up along with hip and pelvic stability gained through targeted exercises.

If we have knee, ankle, or hip pain, our balance can be impacted and this can be especially problematic when trying to enjoy outdoor activities in the wintertime. It’s important to build strength in the stabilizing muscles around the joints as well as for our core to improve our balance which will further lower our risk of falling or slipping. Maintaining independence while living with chronic pain is always a smart goal to strive for and one way to work towards this goal is by adding strength exercises into your routine.

Activity: We recommend the following to be practiced three times a week, ideally, two sets of as many repetitions as you can with proper form and technique for #1 and #3:

  • 1. legged bridges (these help build core strength & pelvic stability)
  • 2.Pilates one leg circles (5 per leg, each direction) (this helps to build hip mobility & pelvic stability)
  • 3.Tree (yoga) (20-60 seconds per side) (tree improves balance)
  • 4. legged touchdown (this improves balance, body awareness, and ankle stability)
  • 5. Slow Torso Twists (30 seconds - 1 minute) (this exercise improves balance)
  • 6. Bird Dog (Dead Bug for those with knee pain) (increases core strength)

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