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February 4, 2017

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Stuff I Wish My Patients Knew Ep 3: Falls Are a Growing Problem, and They're Preventable

SUMMARY:

  • Falls are the #1 cause of injury and death in older Americans (1)

  • Falls are the #1 cause of Traumatic Brain Injury (2)

  • 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling

  • Exercise and balance training can significantly reduce the risk of falling

 

I'll keep this short and sweet. Falls are a serious problem, mostly because they are the an ominous start to a cascade of events that can eventually lead to death in older individuals. If you're a female, you're three times more likely to suffer a hip fracture compared to your male counterpart. So, what is to be done?

 

SCREEN

See your physician regularly, especially if you're a female, and follow their guidance when it comes to having your bone density and vitamin D levels assessed. Osteoporosis, or a significant weakening of the bony architecture in the body, increases the likelihood of experiencing a fracture upon falling.

 

STRENGTHEN

Exercise can help prevent injuries caused by falls (3). See your physical therapist or a well qualified personal trainer that can evaluate and assess the strength in key muscles that keep you upright and stable. Typical muscles that are targeted in a balance training protocol include the muscles of the upper and lower leg, as well as the hip and abdomen. In older individuals, the hips tend to become weak unless strength training is performed consistently.

 

PRACTICE

See your physical therapist or a well qualified personal trainer that can evaluate your balance, as well as make recommendations on how to improve or maintain your current ability. Balance is an intriguing, and somewhat complicated phenomenon. Although it may seem simple on the surface, balance can be challenged in multiple ways, because it's actually a complex, coordinated orchestra of events that keep you upright. Practicing variations of balance activities will prepare your body for almost any balance challenge that presents itself.

 

SAMPLE ROUTINES

 

Caution! If you're uncertain as to the safety of performing any of these exercises, you should first consult your physician or physical therapist.

 

Here is a relatively simple routine:

 Note: These can also be performed with your eyes closed, which more effectively challenges your vestibular system.

 

Here is more advanced routine: 

 

Happy balancing!

 

 

References

1. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0922-older-adult-falls.html

2. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html

3. The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6234

 

Dr. William Richardson serves as the Vice Chair on the board of directors for Work Out Help Out. As a licensed physical therapist, William has extensive knowledge about the human Movement System and is passionate about joining exercise and volunteer service to change the health of the nation.

 

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