Managing Falls and Balance


We were all young once

When we were kids, falling over seemed like a daily occurrence, as we learned new sports, how to ride a bike or climb a tree, falling was part of the process. Back then falling usually meant a bump or a bruise and some comforting words from a parent and off we went back into the game.

Physical Injuries

As adults, and particularly as age advances, falling becomes a more serious matter involving serious injuries and, in some cases, fatal consequences. Bones, muscles and the skin are less resilient and take longer to heal,  meaning even a minor fall can cause injuries that interfere with normal daily activities. Studies from the CDC show that, in older adults, a fall that involves a hip fracture leads to death in 1 in every 4 patients.

Psychological Injuries

The physical damage caused by a bad fall is easy to see and understand. What is more subtle is the psychological and social harm that just one fall can create, even if its not a bad one. Over time people tend to be more cautious and less confident. They will skip social events, leave the house less often and stay in bed or a recliner more of the day. This in turn causes strength and balance to decline, causing more fear, loss of confidence and withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy.

Withdrawal From Life

Perhaps you have had a fall or someone you know has had one and you have noticed that things that used to be easy, like taking a walk or going to a ball game, or even going on vacation, have now cause anxiety, fear and discomfort.

Good News

So this all sounds pretty bad but there is also good news. There are a lot of things that can be done to restore strength and balance after a fall. This means that is is possible overcome fear and regain confidence and return to the things you used to find easy and enjoyable.

Four Pronged Approach

There are four main systems in the body that affect balance. A progam designed to restore balance, strength and confidence will address all four for the best possible results:

Vision:

Your eyes relay information to your brain telling you about your surroundings, helping you identify hazards and pitfalls as you move though your environment.

Proprioception: 

This is the way your body figures out where you and your various body parts are at any given time. If you raise your arm above your head, for example, you know where it is even if your eyes are closed. This system also tells you if you are standing upright or leaning to one side or the other by using information from nerves in your feet

Vestibular

The fluid in your inner ear is where your vestibular system gets its information. As you move your head, the fluid in your inner ear moves around allowing your vestibular system to interpret motion and balance. When this system is not working properly you become dizzy.

Musculoskeletal:

In other words muscles and bones. As I mentioned earlier in this article, people who have fallen one or more times tend to become less active. This inactivity leads to weakness and loss of condition. In the event of another loss of balance, a weaker individual is less likely to be able to regain balance and will fall possibly causing serious injury. It is also important to note that is a person is not active because of a fall, their overall health will decline due to lack of exercise.

Many Factors

Injuries or diseases that involve any of these 4 systems can lead to balance problems and falls. There are other factors such as neurological problems like Parkinsons Disease or a stroke that can contribute. Medication can also affect your balance and your home environment can also increase your fall risk.

Summing up

In summary, in older adults, falls bring the risk of not only physical injury, but also psychological changes that cause them to withdraw from activities they used to enjoy. With proper assessment and a comprehensive rehab program that addresses all the main factor affecting balance, patients can return to a happy, healthy, fulfilling life without fear of falls or injury.

What about you? 

This article might make you think about your own experience with falls. Or maybe one of your friends or family members has fallen in the past 6-12 months and doesn’t appear to be making a full recovery. If so, call Jones PT and ask for a Discovery Visit. This is a no-charge, no-paperwork,  30-minute appointment where you get to talk to an expert in balance and falls and find out more about what options are available to improve your condition.