Did you know that falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans? It’s true, these falls can result in minor injures such as sprains and bruises, but can also result in more sever injuries. The best way to help avoid this risk is to be proactive, educate yourself on fall prevention and to understand the internal and external risks that can lead to balance problems.
Internal falling risks have a lot to do with having good balance, when stationary and when in movement.
Balance is affected by vision, which allows us to see our environment, and the vestibular system, which provides the brain with sensory information about motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation. The musculoskeletal system, which allows us movement and mobility through the use of our skeletal system, joints and muscles/soft tissue, and the somatosensory system, which provides self-awareness of our body’s position in our environment also have an impact on balance.
These systems become increasingly important to maintain as we age. If any of them become impaired it can lead to dizziness, vertigo, swaying and imbalance. Balance problems can also lead to feelings of fear and frustration, which can affect a persons willingness to participate in daily activities. Frustration can cause a person to avoid activities they once enjoyed, which leads to a less active lifestyle, and a lifestyle that restricts movement will weaken the muscles and can magnify existing issues.
Environmental or external falling risks can also increase an elderly person’s risk of falling.
Examples include cords, rugs, stars, improper or lack of use of needed assistive devices, inappropriate footwear and walking on uneven surfaces such as grass or sidewalks. Proper lighting is also something to consider when examining the safety level of a home. As we age our visual system declines and our need for proper lighting increasingly important. Be sure that your home has proper lighting and that light switches are easily accessible.
How can physical therapy help with fall prevention?
As mentioned above, the best way to help avoid risk is to be proactive. Physical therapists are a great resource for helping improve safety and mobility. They will be able to evaluate your balance, vestibular system, posture, range of motion, flexibility, strength and other factors that may impact your likelihood of being injured by a fall. After collecting this information they will be able to put together and exercise program and treatment plan that targets specific areas in need of improvement.
Our experienced physical therapists have the vital education needed to help decrease both internal and environmental risks, and help older Americans get back to living the life they love with confidence. If you believe that you or someone you know is at risk of falling related injuries, be proactive and schedule an evaluation with us today!