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Healthy Moves for Seniors

Neurosurgeon Brian Fiani offers tips on staying strong through the winter.

As we age, the likelihood of sustaining injuries from falls increases dramatically. However, seniors are staying active longer — which is a great thing, but it’s important to perform activities safely. 

“During winter, especially, people should be aware that slips and falls can jolt the pelvis and cause sacroiliitis,” says Brian Fiani, DO, FACOS and board-certified in neurosurgery with Ivy League fellowship training in spinal surgery. “But, don’t let winter keep you from moving. We want people to stay active all year round.”

Being too sedentary can decrease spinal health by weakening bones, he explains. “The more that you do really helps strengthen the spine, decrease inflammation of the body and stay healthy and functional.”

Fiani recommends getting out and enjoying the fresh air while walking on well-manicured sidewalks, but if there’s a lot of snow and ice on the ground, walk in malls and other indoor spaces instead. When outside, walk with others so if you do fall, there's someone there to help you. 

“If you lose your balance and fall on your butt, it can cause compression of your bones, or you can have fractures of the lumbar spine or even worse, up in the neck that might need surgical intervention,” he says. Hitting your head can also result in a brain injury.

If you can’t avoid walking on ice, he says, “Have a slow, wide-based walking pattern.” And wear appropriate footwear. 

Weight-lifting and other load-bearing activities can make bones stronger and healthier. “Seniors should do whatever exercises they can handle to keep their bones healthy,” Fiani says. 

In addition to falls, many spine issues arise from sitting too long, or conversely, working very hard with your hands and being on your feet for hours at a time. If you find yourself sitting too much, get up and walk around regularly. If you have to stand a lot, take breaks to sit and rest your body. 

Fiani, who offers surgical and non-surgical interventions, was attracted to the medical field because he wanted to help others. “The opportunity to help people was the most important factor in making me want to pursue not just the field of medicine, but particularly neurosurgery,” he says. “Neurosurgery allows me to make the biggest impact on other people's lives, because there is nothing more special than the brain, and the spine is what’s important for one's functionality on a day-to-day basis. It really allows me to help others to not only live their lives, but to live them happily.”

Fiani joined Mendelsohn Kornblum Orthopedic & Spine Specialists (MendelsonOrtho.com) in Troy in 2023. “I was really astounded by its capability of providing patients with a comprehensive spine center, with all of the specialists one would need for spine health and wellness,” he says. “That includes everything from a neurosurgeon like me to orthopedic spine surgeons and pain-management providers for non-operative modalities, including physical therapy.” 

As a student at Detroit Country Day School in Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills, Fiani learned the motto men sana in corpore sano, “which means ‘a strong mind in a strong body,’” he says. “It's important for people's minds, bodies and souls to stay active, especially during the wintertime. People should not hibernate.” 

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