By Trisha McBride Ferguson
Winter weather brings with it the beauty of snowflakes and icicles, and the increased danger of slips and falls, which can result in serious back injury. As the temperature drops, the occurrence of outdoor accidents rises. Here’s how to stay safe and injury-free this season.
Understand Your Bone Health
Physicians see a lot of compression fractures in the winter months due to falls. “It’s important for postmenopausal females to stay up-to-date on their DEXA scans to ensure they are not suffering from osteopenia or osteoporosis,” said Marshall J. Ney, DPT, MD, of the Mission Spine Center and Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery Center. “Both of these diagnoses put you at greater risk for compression fractures, which can occur after a hard fall on the ice.” Be sure to take your vitamin D and calcium supplements if your provider has recommended them.
“Be cognizant of the fact that it’s icy and take your time, don’t be in a rush,” advised Dr. Ney. It’s always safer to move slowly and avoid potential hazards.
Use handrails whenever they’re available, and avoid areas that don’t have them. The majority of falls that lead to injury occur when someone doesn’t have anything to hold onto.
Know the Hazards
Frozen steps, sidewalks, paths and driveways are all prime locations for slips and falls. Ice, particularly black ice, can be difficult to see. Identify and avoid the areas around your home that ice over first.
Ask for Help
“If you haven’t been participating in regular outdoor activity or exercise, don’t attempt to clear a lot of snow all on your own. Your body may not be used to the rigorous work of shoveling heavy snow,” said Dr. Ney. “Take your time and ask for help.”
Seek Medical Attention
Seek medical attention if you sustain a back injury and experience severe pain. If you experience weakness in either of your legs or arms or notice problems with bowel or bladder incontinence after a fall, you should also consult a physician.
Marshall J. Ney, DPT, MD, is a physiatrist and doctor of physical therapy at Mission Spine Center at Mission Pardee Health Campus, 2695 Hendersonville Rd. in Arden. For an appointment, please call (828) 274-BACK (2225). For more information about the Mission Spine Center and appointments, please visit mission-health.org/spine.