Are you scared of falls and looking to find your balance again? The fear of falling and experiencing a fall can lead to a debilitating lifestyle. Falling can hold a lot of negative outcomes from injury, decreased ability to do every day activities, or extreme injuries.
You can prevent future falls and find your balance again by working with a physical therapist at Marron Wellness Center. We’ll help you get back to doing activities you most enjoy and improve your balance, endurance and muscle strength.
It’s a fact that 1 out of every 4 older adults experience a fall every year, but falling can be prevented and shouldn’t be an expected part of growing older.
Seeing a physical therapist may help reduce the risk factors that lead to falling and help create a treatment plan to keep your life independent and free.
Physical therapy can help you find your balance again by:
- Designing an individualized plan for your fall-prevention needs.
- Helping you make your home as safe as possible.
- Educating you about the medical risk factors associated with falls.
- Providing you with appropriate exercises and balance training.
- Working with other health care professionals to address any underlying medical conditions that could increase your fall risk.
- Providing you with recommendations on appropriate community programs.
A physical therapist is someone who is an expert on movement and improving the quality of their patients life. This is done through their hands-on care, educating their patients and prescribed movement plans.
Exploring Fall Prevention
A fall could be defined as an event that results in an unexpected, or unplanned encounter with any supporting surface. This could be the floor, or even a piece of furniture. Not including the result of being pushed, or experiencing a medical emergency such as a heart attack.
There’s also a near-fall, which is considered a stumble/loss of balance that would have ended in a fall if you didn’t catch yourself first.
There are a lot of factors that can increase your risk for falls, including:
- History of a previous fall.
- Being female.
- Having a sedentary lifestyle.
- Being in overall poor health.
- Recent hospitalization.
- Advanced age.
- Difficulty with walking or keeping your balance.
- Leg weakness.
- Becoming fatigued easily.
- Limited flexibility.
- Problems with your vision or skin (touch) sensation.
- Getting dizzy when you stand up from sitting or lying down (orthostatic hypotension).
- Medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson disease, or Alzheimer disease.
- Trouble with your memory and thinking.
- Joint pain or arthritis.
- Taking too many medications or taking certain types of medications.
- Depression and/or anxiety.
- Home hazards such as throw rugs, poor lighting, or a lack of handrails on stairs.
- Inappropriate footwear.
- Inappropriate use of a walker or a cane.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of falling.
Not similar to other medical conditions, there’s not a test you can undergo to predict whether you’re going to fall. An adult over 65 years of age should consider being screened by their primary care doctor yearly to determine their fall risk factor.
Also, if you are someone who is worried about falling, are looking to find your balance again, or have fallen previously, you should consider visiting a physical therapist.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
A physical therapist can conduct a brief screening of your fall risk.
If the screening shows that you are at risk, the therapist will perform a thorough evaluation, including:
- Review of your medical history.
- Review of your medications.
- Simple vision test.
- Home safety assessment.
- Simple test of your thinking abilities.
- Check your heart rate and blood pressure measurements at rest and while you change positions (from sitting/lying to standing).
- Foot and footwear assessment.
- Balance, strength, and walking ability assessment.
After evaluating your outcome, the physical therapist can create a personalized plan for each patient.
A treatment plan to help you find your balance again may include:
Balance training. This has been proven to be both an effective and integral step to find your balance again and fall prevention. A physical therapist creates exercises that test the patient’s ability to hold balance and come back from losing balance.
This can include exercises like single-leg standing, or holding balance while doing another task, such as reciting the ABC’s.
Walking and moving. When a physical therapist designs an exercise program for fall prevention, it should almost always include walking. Though when you start a walking program and have poor balance it may increase risk for falling.
You should always speak with your doctor, or physical therapist before initiating any sort of walking schedule to ensure it’s a safe option for you.
While working with a physical therapist, you may be asked to perform activities, such as:
- Dance steps.
- Walking in circles.
- “Figure 8” exercises to strengthen the core abdominal muscles that help stabilize your body.
- Working through an obstacle course.
Doing more than one thing at the same time—safely. Adults who have a hard time doing multiple tasks at once are at a larger risk for falls. In order to be more safe while performing daily tasks, a physical therapist may create a “dual-task” training program.
This sort of program is made to challenge patients and help them to maintain their speed of walking while doing other activities. Such as counting, holding a conversation, or even just carrying groceries.
Strength training. Building strength is crucial to successfully achieving fall prevention and is a great way to prevent falling. Strength training and balance exercises practiced together is even better.
Your physical therapist may create a strengthening program personalized to each individual patient. One that is focused on their specific muscle groups that improve standing balance, balancing while walking, as well as the ability to come back safely from losing your balance.
Endurance training. Performing aerobic exercises is a lower intensity of exercise done for a longer period of time. It helps to improve overall health, especially endurance.
A physical therapist should work with you to create an aerobic program that’s safe. This could include walking, aquatic exercises, or other things that address each patient’s specific needs. The program can begin with sessions as quick as 10 minutes. When endurance improves, they can grow to be up to 30 minute sessions.
Pain management. This is a very important step for older adults who are looking to find your balance again. With some exercises, like aerobic or strengthening, there’s certain steps that can relieve pain all while improving fall prevention.
These treatments should be adjusted for each patient, depending on where their pain is stemming from. Physical therapy is known to improve a patient’s pain, or eliminate it completely. It can also erase their need for dangerous pain medications.
Education. A physical therapist should always take time to go over how a patient’s fall prevention should be addressed. They should go over the best exercises and other activities that will best help the patient improve their quality of life and give them other resources to educate themselves.
Fear management. It’s a good idea to speak with your physical therapist about any fear you may have of falling. This is so they can help you build confidence and slowly regain control of everyday life and activities you’re missing out on out of fear of falling.
Each individual should be assessed by what they do everyday and what they can do themselves to stay safe and avoid falling.
Personal recommendations. Your physical therapist can provide personal recommendations based on your condition and goals to help you:
- Increase the safety of your home environment by making changes, such as removing throw rugs or clutter.
- Adjust how you complete your daily tasks to reduce your fall risk.
- Choose appropriate footwear.
- Learn about proper nutrition, improving your sleep schedule, and other general information that can help reduce your fall risk.
- Meet with other health care providers when appropriate.
Physical therapists are movement experts who optimize the quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education. Physical therapists teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits.
If you, or someone you love are living a more limited life due to the fear of falling, or because of a past fall, let Marron Wellness help you find your balance again!