At FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, fall prevention is the cornerstone of our mission; “Balance” is part of our name after all! September 22nd is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, and every year we bring focus to this very important topic through our “Fight the Fall!” initiative.
Falls are preventable. If you or someone you know suffers from imbalance, keep in mind that early intervention is key. Falling is not an inevitable result of aging, and there are steps you can take to improve your balance and decrease the chances of falling. By identifying risk, future injuries can be prevented. Our skilled physical therapists will create a program specifically tailored to your needs, so you can begin your quest to regain your footing, your confidence, and your freedom. Together we can Fight the Fall!
What You Should Know About Fall Risk & Prevention
Just about everyone has experienced a fall at some point after losing their balance or tripping over an object. Although common, falls can be dangerous and lead to many types of injuries, some of the long-term or even fatal. Fortunately, the most common causes of falling are also preventable.
What happens in the body when we fall?
Falling occurs because the body’s balance has been disrupted through the person’s sensory and/or motor systems. A person’s body can maintain balance because the brain receives and interprets information from several different types of senses:[i]
- Vision (from the eyes), which helps orient you to your environment.
- Proprioception or joint position sense (from your joints and muscles, telling your brain where your body is in space).
- The vestibular system (from the inner ear) senses motion, equilibrium, and the position of the head.
Based on these inputs, the brain sends information to different muscles of the body to help maintain balance. Sometimes, the muscles themselves can be weak, leading to a condition called Musculoskeletal Balance Disorder (MSBD®). For example, have you ever gotten off a treadmill, boat, or out of a moving car only to feel like you are still moving? This can be due to a sensory conflict and even muscle weakness leading to a dysfunction in balance.
Most of the time, the brain can correct conflicting information to keep a person steady on their feet. Occasionally, however, a person may become off-balance and fall.
Falling is both common and dangerous.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one out of four older people (those aged 65 and up) falls each year.[ii] Twenty percent of falls lead to serious injuries, such as broken bones or a head injury.
The CDC also has found:
- More than 3 million older people are injured in falls and receive treatment in emergency departments each year.
- At least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures each year. Of these hip fractures, 95 percent are caused by falling.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
- Medical costs for falls in 2015 were more than $50 billion, with Medicare and Medicaid taking on 75 percent of these costs.
- A person who falls once becomes more likely to fall again, especially at an older age.
- People who have fallen in the past tend to become fearful of another fall, which can make them socially withdrawn.
What are the risks of falling?
The risk of falling increases with age, but falls can happen to anyone, at any time, for many different reasons. Most cases of falling involve several different causes or risk factors.[iii] [iv] Some of the more common types include:
- Muscle weakness, especially in the legs
- Lack of vitamin D
- Trouble with walking or balance
- Side effects of medications like sedatives, antidepressants, or cold medicine that can cause drowsiness or dizziness
- Poor vision
- Loss of hearing
- Foot pain or improper footwear
- Uneven flooring or stairs
- Clutter in the home
- Consumption of alcohol
- Memory loss, difficulty concentrating, or confusion
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Poor balance
- Incontinence that causes frequent or urgent trips to the bathroom
- Drop-in blood pressure
- Walking on ice or wet floors
- If you find that you are dizzy or otherwise losing your balance, don’t ignore it. It’s important to seek help as soon as balance issues begin. A lot of people wait too long. But the longer you wait, the worse it can get.
How can physical therapy help prevent falls?
Improving your walking skills — technically known as your “gait” — and your balance are interrelated challenges. At FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, we help you master these skills to decrease your risk of injury, while also increasing your confidence and independence.
Balance and gait are linked, and they tend to impact one another. Therapy that improves gait and balance works to help keep the body’s different balance and movement systems functioning in harmony.
Gait and balance training have a range of benefits:
- Avoiding injuries associated with falls or dizziness
- Increased confidence with your footing and movement
- Reduced pain from poor posture or gait
What happens in balance and gait training?
First, we’ll evaluate your gait to determine potential problems with strength and posture. Simple movements to test balance are also part of the screening. Together, these basic evaluations help us know what to focus on in terms of therapy.
Hip and ankle weakness often leads to balance problems, as does poor posture. Strength and flexibility exercises can help counteract these problems. These are often as simple as leg lifts while seated in a chair, or “knee marching.” We may also practice standing on one leg, walking heel-to-toe, or visual tracking exercises like following an object with just your eyes and keeping your head still. the movement of your thumb with your eyes as you move it in various positions.
The team at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers knows how important balance and walking are for independent living, as well as for work activities, exercise, sports, and enjoying life in general.
We offer the following programs and therapies to help reduce the risk of falls:
- Assessment and Evaluation Programs
- Gait Training and Balance Programs
- Fall Prevention and Balance Retraining
- Manual Therapy
- Fitness and Wellness Programs
- Vestibular Rehab
- Functional Training
Love Your Life!
With our dedicated team of physical therapists behind you, you’ll regain confidence in navigating challenging terrain and learning how to avoid dizzy spells. You may even be able to leave that cane or walker behind!
- Vestibular Disorders Association. The Human Balance System. Retrieved from https://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorder/human-balance-system
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, February 10). Important Facts About Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc. gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
- Health in Aging. (2017, October). Falls Prevention: Causes & Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:falls/info:causes-and-symptoms
- NHS Inform. (2018, May 4). Causes of Falls. Retrieved from https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/preventing-falls/causes-of-falls