Falls are often overlooked as a harmless topic. Falls cause more than 95% of all hip fractures, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, and number one cause of harm and resulting death in elderly Americans.
While falls are common, they are preventable. These are some signs that you may need to work on your fall prevention strategies in order to keep yourself safe and sound:
- You find yourself stumbling over objects or your own feet
- You tend to shuffle your feet when you walk
- You hold onto nearby furniture and tall objects to improve confidence with walking
- You have fallen at least once in the past 6 months
Here are 5 ways to reduce your risk of falling and potential harm:
- PT to improve balance, strength and activity endurance
- Fall proof your home
- Restrain small pets
- Removed area rugs and any clutter in walkways
- Make sure the area is well lit when walking through it
- Install handrails in more difficult walking areas such as stairs and bathrooms
- Wear sensible shoes
- Avoiding unsafe shoes such as loose slippers of flips flops can reduce risk of falling
- Speak with your Doctor about medications which may be causing dizziness
- Use an assistive device
- Sometimes an assistive device such as a cane or walker may be necessary based on balance deficits. A Physical Therapist can assess your limitations and help decide which device could best keep you safe.
Here are some exercises you can practice on your own in order to improve your balance:
Single Leg Balance:
- Having something sturdy to hold on to next to you in case you lose your balance, stand on one leg. Try to maintain balance for 30 seconds. To make the exercise more difficult try standing on an unstable surface like a pillow, or try closing your eyes.
- Stand tall with your feet together. Have a wall or sturdy piece of furniture next to you in case you need to hold on. From here slowly move your head from side to side then up and down while you keep your body still. Do this for 30 seconds and repeat. If you become dizzy, try moving your head more slowly. If you still become dizzy, stop the exercise and speak with your PT about your doctor symptoms. To make the exercises easier, stand with your feet hip width apart. To make the exercise more difficult, try performing with your feet in tandem or on one leg.
- Stand tall with our feet hip width apart in front of a step of bottom of a staircase. Have a wall or sturdy piece of furniture next to you in case you need to hold on. Do your best not to use your hands while you slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front you, then slowly return it to the floor. Perform 15-20 taps then repeat on the opposite leg.
If you are unable to do each exercise for 4-5 sec try making it a little easier until you are ready to progress to the next level. If you can do 30 sec each time you try, the exercise is probably too easy for you.
Speak with a Physical Therapist if you feel your balance is becoming unsafe and want a professional recommendation to help you best prevent falls.
Blog researched and written by Dr. Monique Lassaga-Bishop, PT, DPT