Break Your Fall, Not Your Bones!

As the weather grows colder, snow and ice threaten us all with plenty of opportunities for slips and falls! Whether or not we exercise outdoors regularly, we are all at risk for injuries commonly caused by falls during winter like broken or fractured bones, sprains and concussions. Falls are the second most common cause of accidental injury in the world, and snow and ice certainly don’t help us to avoid this!However, while these falls may not always be avoidable, there are ways we can help ourselves to prevent severe injury. Did you know that there are both correct and incorrect ways to break a fall? These tips will help you avoid and prevent pain the next time you find yourself taking a tumble!

I know what you might be thinking—ridiculous!How am I going to “think” about how to fall when it happens so quickly and without conscious thought? But believe it or not, reading this could help. Many of my patients who have fallen and avoided getting hurt stated that they actually “thought” about how they were going to fall. Our brain will store random information, even though we may think we won’t remember it.When the time comes and that information is needed, your wonderful brain can trigger that memory that was deeply embedded somewhere. So, you don’t have to thank me now, but just maybe one day you might!

First, as you are falling, pay attention to the direction of the fall: forward, to either side or backward. When falling forward, many of us automatically throw our hands out towards the ground, especially to protect our faces. It is important to put your palms out to help absorb the impact of the fall, but make sure that your elbows are not locked. Make sure your entire palms touch the ground briefly before the rest of your body falls. This will reduce the likelihood of breaking either your elbows or wrists. Your palms and wrists are used in this case to slow the fall and cannot absorb the entire shock, so it is important to still let the rest of your body reach the ground as gently as possible. If you are falling to your left or right side, use only the palm of that hand. Always avoid using the backs of the hands to break a fall–this is actually more likely to cause the wrist to break. It is important in all cases to pay attention to the positioning of your head. If you are falling backwards, make sure to tuck your chin down into your chest so that it doesn’t hit the ground. An alternative to this is placing one hand on the back of your head to cushion the blow. When falling forward, turn your head to either side to prevent facial injuries, particularly a broken nose, but only slightly. If you turn your head completely, you put yourself at a higher risk of your neck receiving too much of the shock of the fall.

Just like we instruct during many types of treatment and exercise, remember to breathe! While falling, our instincts usually tell us to tense up and brace for impact, and this causes us to breathe shallowly. However, contrary to popular belief, a tense body is more prone to injury than a body that is more loose and relaxed. To avoid having the wind knocked out of you, make sure to exhale fully before reaching the ground. While we all experience falls sometimes, there are some ways therapists at Rebalance can help, especially during a season that puts those more prone to falls at a higher risk! If you fall frequently, you may have musculoskeletal imbalances or postural issues that a physical therapist can help to evaluate and correct. Frequent falls during running and other exercise can often be attributed to improperly fitting shoes, loose ligaments, poor balance or other proprioceptive issues. Rebalance therapists can help assess your body to see why this is happening. It is very important to select proper footwear for running and walking in winter weather. No single shoe sole material is perfect under all conditions, however, footwear with rubber or neoprene composite soles provide better traction on ice and snow than leather or plastic. If things like your age, profession or health conditions are factors in your frequent falls, a Rebalance therapist can suggest appropriate lifestyle changes for you so that you can learn to break your falls correctly and not your bones!

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