Fracture Recovery Part 7: Spring? What Spring? How to Survive a Spring Ice Storm on Crutches

Snowy road

Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6.

Even though it’s the middle of April, I live in Canada which means we’re always at risk of a freak snow storm. Lucky for me, we got a pretty severe ice storm this past weekend. There are a whole host of challenges that those of us on crutches experience that others don’t. From the slippery ice, to cleaning off the car, to shoveling the driveway, there are so many things I have always taken for granted and I learned some lessons I had hoped I wouldn’t need to learn, having broken my leg in March. For anyone else in my situation or a similar one, here’s what I learned from venturing out in the snow and ice on crutches for the first time.

10 Tips for Winter Weather on Crutches
  1. Don’t leave the house if you don’t need to.
    It’s risky going out when it’s icy especially, and it’s so important for you to put your health first, so stay inside if you’re able to. Try and work from home if you can, especially on the worst days and consider getting your groceries delivered.
  2. Get a spotter
    Especially the first few times you have to crutch on ice and snow, get someone to go with you, just to be there for support in case you’re slipping and to be a helping hand if a crutch gets stuck or you’re a little worried about falling.
  3. Park your car inside (if you can)
    Not everyone has the luxury of parking inside, but if you can, park in a garage or underground parking lot. Cleaning off the car is harder than you might think while you’re on crutches.
  4. Pay for driveway cleaning (if you’ve got one)
    Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have someone in your life who will tackle this job for you early in the day without complaint, but especially if it’s early in the winter, it might be a good idea to pay someone to do it for you, if you can afford it. This seems like an easy task, but like cleaning off you car is deceptively hard.
  5. Choose the right shoe
    As much as slipping is an issue in the winter, it’s much more likely when you’re off balance because you’re stuck on one leg. Choosing the right shoe will make you just a little more stable. Choose something with a solid grip that’s going to bite into the snow and ice to reduce your risk of falling.
  6. Practice indoors
    Learning to use crutches is hard enough in good conditions, but in snow and ice, it’ll be even harder. If you’re unlucky enough to start your crutch days while there’s snow on the ground, learn to use them inside before venturing outside. Get comfortable going up and down stairs as well as just walking before you venture outside where it becomes much more complicated.
  7. Take less with you
    This may seem like an odd one, but the less bags you’re taking out the door and the lighter your bag is, the less likely it is that it’s going to throw off your balance and knock you down.
  8. Consider winterizing your crutches
    If you’re expecting a lot of snow, consider spending $30-$50 on some ice picks for the bottom of your crutches. These bite into the snow and ice so that your crutches don’t slide away from you.
  9. Dry your crutches
    When you first come inside, make sure there is a rug that won’t move on you on the ground that you can dry your crutches on. Wet crutches are slippery crutches and especially when walking on smooth floors, one or both can slide away from you when wet.
  10. TAKE YOUR TIME
    This is almost certainly the most important. Rushing on crutches is not an option. Don’t put your recovery at risk when you don’t need to. Set aside extra time to get everywhere you need to go.

Beyond the ice storm, my recovery is continuing to go pretty well. Externally, the scar is healing, my hypersensitivity is reducing and most days I am in a lot less pain. Recovery is not linear, and remembering this is a major challenge some days.

At this point, I am now able to get back to basically my normal work day. Some days are definitely easier than others, but I have the luxury of frequent physio treatments which are almost certainly making my recovery faster and reducing my pain. These treatments are an integral part of my recovery, which is why it’s infuriating to know that so many people in my situation are not sent to physio as soon as possible after their surgery. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get back to normal, but all too often people don’t know they should be seeing a physio because their surgeon doesn’t tell them.

Tracking milestones in my recovery has been key in keeping the mental recovery on track. Recently we hit a pretty big one, which is a significant step on the road to walking again. Range of motion in the joint is one of the first steps towards recovery, and being able to flex my for and hit 90 degrees means that my foot is able to be flat again (for the first time in more than a month). Allowing myself to celebrate each of these relatively small steps adds a positive spin on my day. Some of the other areas of range of motion are not as good as we would hope they would be, but this is a big factor in normal movement.

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