Don’t Let Yourself Live in Fear of Falling!
Have you ever experienced an imbalance, dizziness, or unsteadiness that makes you feel like you might tip over at any given moment? Have you suffered a fall in the past? Are you afraid that you might be in danger of having a fall-related injury? If so, then you’re not alone and may benefit from fall prevention therapy.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal accidents in older adults. Every year, one-third of the population over 65 experiences some sort of fall. In 2013, more than 2.5 million people were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Most people don’t think about keeping their balance in shape until it’s too late and they’ve sustained a hard fall. The good news is that most falls can easily be avoided, simply by exercising your balance system on a regular basis.
Contact our Cambridge and Marblehead physical therapy practice today if you fear that you are at risk of falling, so we can help you find the source of your problem and deal with it accordingly.
Common symptoms associated with fall risk
If you have any of the following symptoms, physical therapy could greatly benefit you and help prevent the risk of falling.
It is important to note that you should also contact a physical therapist if you have any of the following symptoms:
Dizziness or vertigo (“spinning” sensations, even when remaining still)
Inability to focus or remain alert
Double vision or tunnel vision
Nausea or vomiting
Arm or leg weakness
Abnormal eye movements
Difficulty standing up from a seated position or standing for prolonged periods of time
How can physical therapy help decrease fall risk?
A recently published systematic review by Cochrane, comprising more than 100 randomized controlled trials, supports exercise interventions as an effective method of treatment for patients at increased risk of falling. The average age of the patients in this review was 76, and 77% of the patients were female.
The risk of fall-related fractures decreased by 27 percent and the number of falls that required medical attention decreased by 39 percent. Fall risk was also reduced by 21-24 percent in this group, depending on whether individual or group treatments had been performed.
Results concluded that those who participated in exercise interventions had a 23 percent drop in fall risk compared to the control group.
Concluding statements by the authors showed that overall, “Exercise reduces both the rate of falls… and the number of people experiencing falls.”
What will a fall prevention PT plan look like?
At Step Ahead Physical Therapy, your initial physical evaluation may consist of several parts to better determine what your most problematic factors are.
These may include vision tests, thinking tests, resting heart rate checks, active heart rate checks, and evaluations of your gait, balance, range of motion, and strength.
Based on the results of this evaluation, our physical therapist will design a treatment plan for your specific needs.
These plans are aimed first and foremost at reducing your risk of falling, but they will also aid you in improving balance, strength, flexibility, endurance, and overall movement.
Some common forms of treatment include:
If you are feeling pain anywhere, it will be one of the first things addressed in your treatment plan. Our physical therapist will want to make sure that your treatment is as comfortable as possible, so you will work together on relieving pain first, before continuing into any other forms of physical activity that may bring you discomfort.
Endurance training is all about working up to more advanced levels of the same form of treatment. Our physical therapist will provide you with an aerobic exercise program and will slowly add time to those exercises as your endurance improves. For example, your endurance training may begin at 10-minute sessions and then may progress to 30-minute sessions.
Strength training is typically paired with your balance training. Our physical therapist will design a strength training plan for you, which will focus on specific muscle groups in need of improvement. The goal of this will be to improve your standing and walking balance, as well as your ability to recover from a loss of balance.
Balance is a large part of fall prevention, as lack of stability is one of the main reasons why falls occur. Our physical therapists will design a balance-training plan for you as part of your treatment and may ask you to perform certain balance-based activities, such as standing on one leg or holding your balance while performing a mentally-stimulating task (such as reciting the alphabet or reading a page from a book.)
Walking and moving programs.
This part of your treatment plan is aimed at getting you back to your normal physical function when walking and/or moving. Our physical therapist may ask you to perform certain activities, such as walking in a circle or completing an obstacle course.