More than 1 out of 4 Americans age 65+ falls each year!1 Falls can result in major injuries including head injuries such as TBI (traumatic brain injuries) and broken bones such as a hip fracture. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling2 and falls are the most common cause of a TBI.3 Even if you do not sustain an injury from a fall, you become fearful of falling in the future. This fear leads to a vicious cycle of slowly decreasing your activity levels and then becoming weaker which all increases your risk of falling. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.4 Physical therapy can reduce your risk for falls even if you have or have not already fallen. Here are 5 ways your physical therapist can reduce your risk for falls.
- Assess Your Risk of Falls: Physical therapists have a large toolbox of reliable and valid measures that assess your risk of falling. Some assessments measure your lower body strength while others look at your ability to maintain your balance both statically and dynamically. Your physical therapist is trained at not only administering the test but also interpreting the test to determine your impairments and then creating personalized interventions for your physical therapy sessions.
- Lower Body Strengthening: Lower body weakness can be a major contributor to an individual’s risk of falling. Hip, knee, and ankle strengthening exercises can all be incorporated into your physical therapy sessions and your home exercise program. Improving your lower extremity strength will not only lower your risk of falling but positively influence your mobility in all aspects of your life including walking, stairs, and sitting up from a chair.
- Balance Challenges: It is very evident that balance is an important part of reducing your fall risk. Your physical therapist is an expert in evaluating your balance in a way that will translate to potential impairments you may experience in your everyday life. You may be at risk when your base of support is narrowed, changing walking speed or direction, walking backward, or even when you are stepping over an obstacle. These are all things you can work on at your physical therapy appointment while being in a safe environment.
- Bolstering Your Vestibular System: Do you become dizzy when rolling out of bed in the morning? Or when looking at items in a grocery store? This may be indicative of a vestibular system deficiency. Your vestibular system functions to detect the position of your head in space to allow you to coordinate your posture, and eye movement, and stay upright. Vestibular exercises might be included in your home exercise program if deemed appropriate by your physical therapist.
- Walking Endurance: Walking for prolonged periods is an important part of daily life and being able to participate in all the activities that you love. Physical therapists are the perfect people to calculate your aerobic capacity. Low walking capacity could cause you to become fatigued quickly and increase your risk of falling in the community. Establishing a walking program and improving your walking efficiency with your physical therapist is another important aspect of decreasing your risk of falling.
In honor of fall prevention awareness week, Live Your Life is offering free balance screening anywhere in our service area! Contact us today to get on our schedule and click here to see whether you are in our service area!
- CDC. Older Adult Falls Reported by State. www.cdc.gov. Published October 8, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/falls-by-state.html
- Slemenda CW. Risk Factors for Low Bone Mass: Clinical Implications. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1993;118(9):741. doi:https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-118-9-199305010-00014
- Jager TE, Weiss HB, Coben JH, Pepe PE. Traumatic brain injuries evaluated in U.S. emergency departments, 1992-1994. Acad Emerg Med. 2000;7(2):134-140. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.2000.tb00515.x
- O’Loughlin JL, Robitaille Y, Boivin JF, Suissa S. Incidence of and risk factors for falls and injurious falls among the community-dwelling elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 1993;137(3):342-354. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116681