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Preventing the Winter Wipeout

By DuPage Medical Group Fracture Liaison Service, DuPage Medical Group Physical and Occupational Therapy

With all of its fun attractions, shopping and dining, the Chicagoland area is a great place to live, except in the winter when roadways and sidewalks may be slick from snow and ice. It’s no wonder that broken bones are much more common in the winter time. DuPage Medical Group’s Fracture Liaison Service and Physical Therapy team have developed tips to prevent slips on the ice, and what to do if a slip or fall occurs.

  1. Avoid wearing shoes with smooth or leather bottoms.  They do not offer any traction on slippery surfaces.  Instead, wear a shoe or boot with a patterned bottom for better traction. 
  2. Be alert and minimize distractions when walking outdoors.  Keep an eye out for wet or icy spots.  Remember, areas that appear to be wet may actually be black ice.
  3. If possible, walk around icy or wet areas.  This may mean walking in the grass or even crossing the street.
  4. If you must walk through an icy area, the following techniques will come in handy:

                -Considerably slow down your walking speed

                -Widen your stance so your feet are further apart

                -Take small steps as you walk

                -It may be helpful to hold your arms out for balance or hold onto nearby objects

If you do slip on the ice, try to remain calm.  If you are able, crawl or scoot out of the icy area before trying to stand, as this will prevent another fall.   Sometimes the best thing to do is to ask for help.

If you do sustain a broken bone as a result of a fall, your provider may need to evaluate your bone health further.  Although someone with normal bone strength could break a bone if they fall on the ice, it may be an indication that your doctor should examine your bone quality and screen you for osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease.

According to the World Health Organization and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a fall from standing height that causes a break in the hip or spine is diagnostic of osteoporosis. This is because these are very big, thick bones that, if healthy, are extremely hard to break. A standing height fall that causes a fracture of the wrist, shoulder, leg, or pelvis, warrants an evaluation for osteoporosis.

The Fracture Liaison Service (FLS) at DuPage Medical Group is designed to evaluate patients who break bones at standing height. Studies have shown that most people who break a hip have broken another smaller bone first, so the FLS team looks into a person’s bone strength at the time of the first break.

Osteoporosis is a disease that doesn’t present any symptoms until you break a bone. It occurs in about 50% of women and about 25% of men over the age of 50. Younger people with certain underlying conditions, or who are taking certain medications, can also develop osteoporosis. Your doctor can perform a simple bone density test (a special kind of x-ray) to determine if you have osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia. You can also make an appointment with one of our osteoporosis specialists at the DuPage Medical Group Fracture Liaison Service, who have special training to diagnose and treat osteoporosis.   Remember, slipping on ice is a good reason to fall, but it’s not a good reason to break a bone! To schedule your appointment with the FLS team at DuPage Medical Group, visit www.dupagemd.com or call 630-456-7631.

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