Life is filled with ups and downs, especially with fall and winter’s icy and snowy conditions laying the groundwork.
Winter’s slippery porches, steps, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots can lead to falling, which affects more than one in four people over age 65 each year. Since we tend to spend more time inside, falls can also result from sliding on area rugs, tripping or stepping out of the shower or bathtub.
Although falls don’t always cause injuries, one in five falls results in head trauma or a broken bone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In people 65+, that’s likely to be a hip fracture. The CDC reports that each year, at least 300,000 older people end up in the hospital for hip surgery for a hip fracture; 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
“As orthopedic surgeons, we worry about hip fractures from falls in older patients, but that’s just a part of it. We see people of all ages with fractures around the knee, shoulder, wrist, and elbow that result from falls and other injuries such as a torn rotator cuff, sprained wrist and back pain,” says Ashley Bassett, MD, orthopedic surgeon and director of the new Women’s Sport Medicine Center at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.
Don’t let cold weather trip you up or slow you down. Prevention and awareness are key. These anti-trip tips can help you stay safe on your feet this winter and beyond.
1. Make sure outside areas are well lit and free of ice. Sand or use salt to de-ice snowy, icy porches, sidewalks and driveways. Clear an ice-free path to your car and mailbox.
2. Reroute your walking path. If you can’t avoid easily obviously slippery surfaces; say your front porch is icy and you don’t have time in the morning to deal with it before work, go out through the garage or the back door. Steer clear of wet leaves and snowbanks too.
3. Use the railing every time you take the stairs. Make sure hallways, porches and sidewalks have good lighting, too.
4. Keep your bones strong. Get plenty of vitamin D and calcium to keep your bones healthy can help prevent a broken bone from falls in people of all ages. “Consider taking a calcium/vitamin D supplement and drinking milk,” Dr. Bassett says.
5. Keep your home free of tripping hazards, such as children’s and pet toys, electrical cords, throw rugs, clutter and rearrange furniture so there’s plenty of room for walking. If you get up in the middle of the night, use your smartphone’s flashlight or a night light to light the way.
6. Spring for a new pair of boots. Boots can be pricey, which is why there’s a tendency to hold on to the same pair for years, even decades. But a worn heel or sole can set the stage for slipping and losing your balance. Boots that are old and worn can be risky and as bad for your feet and overall health.
7. Stay strong. “Being physically fit with core strengthening and stretching and doing exercises that promote balance, such as standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, can help prevent fall injuries,” Dr. Bassett says.
If winter gets you down, we’re here to help. Call us at for a fall evaluation at (908) 684-3005.