By: Danielle Pittaluga, PT, DPT, OCS
You may believe that falling, repeatedly or rarely, is a normal part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be. The following steps will teach you what you can do to prevent future falls and avoid the serious injuries that can result from them. If you think exercise is not for you, maybe we can convince you otherwise. If not, at least take the time to read a few easy tips to make your home a safer place.
COMMON INJURIES FROM FALLS
Hip fractures are among the most common injuries resulting from falls. The prognosis after a hip fracture is poor. Most individuals end up in rehab, or sometimes even in nursing homes, and lose their functional independence. Death is not uncommon from complications after surgery for a hip fracture.
These facts are not meant to scare you, but to strongly encourage you to seek help BEFORE sustaining an injury from a fall. Following a hip fracture, recovery is painful and rehab/physical therapy is necessary. Let us help you first.
Multiple studies have shown a link between the fear of falling and the risk of falling. This means that the more nervous and fearful you are of falling, the more likely you are to actually have a fall. Fear may cause a person to limit their activity, making them less mobile and less physically fit, which is why their risk for falling increases.
The fear of falling also increases significantly after an individual has already had a fall. In other words, falling once puts you at a greater risk for falling again. The more you fall, the more likely you are to injure yourself. So, if you walk around fearing you may trip, slip, or fall, or if you have already fallen, hopefully this article can provide some help to you.
STEP 1: PREVENTION
With falls, prevention is key. Don’t wait until you have a fall that lands you in the hospital to take action!
What you can do to prevent falls at home:
- Make sure all rooms, stairwells, and hallways are well lit, especially during the night.
- Remove throw rugs that may cause you to trip, and make sure edges of carpeting are not loose.
- Remove all clutter on the floor or on the steps that may cause you to trip.
- Put all things within your reach so you don’t have to use a step stool or squat down to get them.
- Use nonslip rubber mats and have grab bars installed in the shower or tub to prevent slipping.
Other things to consider:
- Have regular eye exams to ensure optimal vision.
- Carefully manage and review your medications for side effects, including dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Stand up slowly after sitting or lying down and make sure you have your bearings before starting to walk.
- Always have a phone within reach.
- Consider wearing an alarm to get help in case you do fall and need assistance.
STEP 2: PHYSICAL EVALUATION
After a thorough physical evaluation, a physical therapist will be able to guide you through an exercise program that is designed specifically for you.
Some examples of things that may be included in a physical evaluation are:
- Review of your history
- Review of the medications you are taking that may cause dizziness or lightheadedness
- Checking of vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate
- Assessing the strength in your legs
- Balance screen
- Footwear assessment
- Checking the sensation in your feet and lower legs
STEP 3: PHYSICAL THERAPY AND EXERCISE
Beginning a regular exercise program is an effective way to get stronger and feel better, which will lower your chance of falling. Exercises that focus on strength, balance, and coordination are most beneficial.
Your individualized exercise program will most likely incorporate strengthening exercises for your legs while sitting or standing. In addition, balance exercises may be performed on different surfaces with varying foot positions, such as standing on foam with your feet together; coordination exercises, such as cone taps with your feet; or gait training, which includes practicing walking, climbing stairs and curbs, etc. In a physical therapy setting, you will be closely supervised, so you can be confident in your safety from falling and enjoy your time with us.
Physical therapy is not something to be nervous or apprehensive about; we are here to help improve your quality of life. We hope to help prevent future falls and injuries, but we are also here to help you recover if you do fall and get hurt. If you fall frequently, occasionally, or have fallen even just once, call and make an appointment today so we can help you stay on your feet!
For more information on the comprehensive physical therapy services offered at Vero Beach Orthopaedics & Neurology or to schedule an appointment, please call (772) 569-2330 or request an appointment online.
Learn more about Danielle Pittaluga, PT, DPT, OCS.