Loss of Balance
Are You at Risk of Sustaining a Fall-Related Injury? Get Back on Your Feet with Physical Therapy
Did you know that 1/3 of the population over 65 falls each year? Every 11 seconds, an older adult is rushed to the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 2.5 million adults were treated for nonfatal injuries in emergency departments in 2013. In older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. Most people don’t think about keeping their balance in shape until it is too late and they suffer a harsh fall. The good news is that most falls can easily be prevented, simply by the regular exercising of your balance system. If you have recently sustained a balance-related injury, it is important to seek the help of a physical therapist immediately, in order to avoid additional injuries in the future. 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
Do you frequently notice an imbalance, dizziness, or unsteadiness that makes you feel as if you may fall over at any given time? Have you suffered from a fall in the past? Are you worried that you may be at risk of sustaining a fall-related injury? If so, contact California Rehabilitation today so we can help you figure out the root of your problem and treat it accordingly.
Am I at risk of falling?
Some people have a higher risk of falling than others. Certain risk factors include:
- Advanced age.
- Being female.
- Living a sedentary life.
- Previous history of falls.
- Vertigo or dizziness.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Heart disease.
- Previous stroke or heart attack.
- Arthritis or alternative joint pain.
- Problems with vision.
- Problems with walking or staying balanced.
- Overall poor health.
Your physical therapist will assess your medical history to determine how many risk factors toward falling you may have. They will educate you on what these factors mean, as well as steps you can take to decrease your risk. After this, they will perform a thorough physical evaluation to figure out what the best treatment plan for you will be.
How will physical therapy help reduce my fall risk?
A recently published systematic review by Cochrane, comprised of over 100 randomized controlled trials, supports exercise interventions as an effective treatment method for patients with an increased risk of falling. The average age of patients in this review was 76, and 77% of the patients were women.
Results concluded that those who participated in exercise interventions had a 23% decrease in falls as compared to the control group. Fall risk was also reduced at 21-24%, depending on if treatments were done in individual or group settings. The risk of fall-related fractures was decreased by 27% and the number of falls that required medical attention was decreased by 39%.
Concluding statements from the authors demonstrated how overall, “Exercise reduces both the rate of falls…and the number of people experiencing falls.”
At California Rehabilitation, 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, your physical therapist will design a treatment plan around 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:
- Pain management. If you are feeling painful anywhere, it will be one of the first things addressed in your treatment plan. Your 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.
- 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. Your physical therapist may ask you to perform certain activities, such as walking in a circle or completing an obstacle course.
- Balance training. Balance is a large part of fall prevention, as lack of stability is one of the main reasons why falls occur. Your physical therapist 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.)
- Strength training. Strength training is typically paired with your balance training. Your 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.
- Endurance training. Endurance training is all about working up to more advanced levels of the same form of treatment. Your physical therapist will provide you with an aerobic exercise program and will slowly add on 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.
Are you ready to get back on your feet by improving your balance and decreasing your risk of sustaining a fall-related injury? Contact California Rehabilitation to schedule an appointment and get started today!