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Preventing Falls

Blue box with white text reading "About one third of people over the age of 65 and almost half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once this year."
"About one third of people over the age of 65 and almost half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once this year."

Did you know:

  • every 13 seconds a person is treated in the emergency room for a fall related injury?

  • every 20 minutes, someone dies from a fall?

  • last year alone, nearly $50B in medical costs was spent on fall-related injuries?

  • that injuries and death from falls has increased 45% in only three years?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have implemented programs to reverse this trend, but as the Baby Boomers get older, the increase has not slowed.

Falls can be caused by a number of things, including leg, hip, and back weakness,

dizziness disorders, even vision disorders. Luckily, falls are preventable! People think of physical therapists as someone to see after you've been hurt, but many physical therapists are able to help prevent falls with only a few appointments and a home exercise program.

"Balance is related to many things," Dr. Cheryl Abelow, owner of FlexPlus Physical Therapy, tells us. "Your body relies on sensory input from your eyes, your ears, and your feet on the ground. If any one of those things is not working properly, you can feel off-balance, which greatly increases your fall risk. Additionally, you need strong core and leg muscles to keep your body upright."

A simple physical therapy evaluation can tell a doctor of physical therapy, especially one trained in vestibular disorders, where the loss of balance is coming from. The doctor will ask you to perform a series of tests, like walking in a straight line, or standing on one foot with your eyes closed, to determine which sensory input is not functioning properly, or if you just need strengthening.

Four Steps for Preventing Falls: 1 has picture of white sneakers and says "Participate in regular physical activity for improved balance and coordination." 2 has a picture of a house and says "Make your home safer by removing things you might trip over, like papers, books, cords, clothing, and shoes." 3 is a picture of pill bottles and says "Review your medications with a health care provider - some medications can make you feel sleepy or dizzy." 4 is a picture of an eye chart and says "Have your vision checked at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling."

Besides physical therapy, you can make changes at home to prevent falls:

  • Medications may contribute to falls for a variety of reasons. If you have repeated falls, make sure to ask your doctors about your medications.

  • Eat regularly and appropriately. A spike or drop in blood sugar can cause light-headedness and dizziness, which can throw off your balance.

  • Keep moving. Physical activities, even gentle movements like tai chi, will help strengthen your leg, back, and abdominal muscles, which will not only help you stay upright, but if you do start to fall, strong muscles can help catch you.

  • Remove clutter from your home and make sure cords are tucked away. Use an anti-skid mat under area rugs, and make sure you have good lighting to see everything that could be in your path.

  • Use assistive devices. You may be a good candidate for a cane or walker, but also consider grab bars in the shower, using handrails on the stairs, putting non-slip treads on bare-wood steps, and a raised toilet seat (which makes it easier to sit and stand back up).

A graph showing the more health problems you have, the higher your risk of falling, with 8 out of 10 people who have 4 or more health problems likely to fall.

If you are or someone you know is worried about your fall risk, or are experiencing pain after a fall, we'd love to help. Call us at FlexPlus Physical Therapy at 508-650-0060 to set up an evaluation. Not sure if physical therapy is right for you? Ask us for a free injury consultation. Our primary goal is to get you better faster. At FlexPlus Physical Therapy, we're with you every step of the way.

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