As we age, the likelihood of falling and sustaining injuries from those falls increases dramatically. However, seniors are staying active longer, which is great, but performing activities safely is essential.
"Winter is a particularly important time for people to be aware that slips and falls can jolt the pelvis and cause sacroiliitis, or SI for short," says Dr. Brian Fiani, a board-certified neurosurgeon with Ivy-League Fellowship training in minimally-invasive and complex spinal surgery. "But, don't let winter keep you from moving. We want people to stay active and stay fit all year round."
Being too sedentary can decrease spinal health by weakening bones, he explains. "The more you do can really help strengthen the spine, decrease inflammation of the body, and help you stay healthy and functional."
Dr. Fiani recommends getting out and enjoying the fresh air while walking on well-manicured sidewalks. However, 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 someone is there to help you if you fall.
"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.
It's critical to avoid walking on ice, but if you can't, he has some advice. "Have a slow, wide-based walking pattern." And wear appropriate footwear.
Many seniors today participate in weightlifting and other load-bearing activities that make their bones stronger and healthier. "They should do whatever exercises they can handle to keep their bones healthy," says Dr. Fiani. "I went to Detroit Country Day School here in Michigan, and our motto was, in Latin, men sana in corpore sano, which means a strong mind in a strong body. People's minds, bodies, and souls must stay active, especially during the wintertime. People should not hibernate."
In addition to falls, many spine issues arise from sitting too long or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, working very hard with your hands and being on your feet for hours at a time. If you find yourself sitting too much, be sure to get up and walk around regularly. If you have to stand a lot, do the opposite. Take breaks to sit and rest your body.
Dr. Fiani, who offers surgical and non-surgical interventions, was attracted to the medical field because he wanted to help others. "That was the most important factor in making me want to pursue not just the field but particularly neurosurgery," he says. "Neurosurgery is this specialty that 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 live not only their lives but also them happily."
He joined Mendelson Kornblum in Troy in 2023. "I was looking broadly across the entire country at the opportunities that were presented to me and who was recruiting me when I was in California and New York City," says Dr. Fiani. "And I was astounded at this opportunity in particular because of its capability of providing patients with a comprehensive spine center. Very few in the country have all the capabilities and specialists that one would need for their spine health and wellness.
"That includes everything from a neurosurgeon like me, as well as orthopedic spine surgeons and pain management providers, who can provide our patients with non-operative modalities to help their pain." The practice even offers MRIs and physical therapy.
What also attracted him to the practice was its location. "I originally grew up in Southeast Michigan, and so, for me, it was an extraordinary opportunity to take all of my education, training, strengths, and experience from over the past decade and bring those home to the great people of Michigan." His parents and an older brother still live in southeast Michigan.
To learn more, go to MendelsonOrtho.com or call 1-877-BADBACK.
"Winter is a particularly important time for people to be aware that slips and falls."