Every year millions of Americans 65 and older are injured from a fall. Many times it just turns into an embarrassing encounter with paramedics being called and you sitting on your backside waiting to be helped up. If you are middle age or younger; can you imagine sitting on the floor a few years from now, not even hurt, but unable to get up. Resulting in 8 firefighters & EMT coming to save the day by lifting you up, recommending you go to the hospital, and then leaving?
Now what if there is a serious injury as is what happens in 1 out of every 5 falls? Welp, now those 8 firefighters hoist you up on a gurney for a trip to the ER. Not the place you want to spend the day.
So why does our country have such a massive problem with falls? There are two factors that stand out in our opinion.
- Chronic Sedentary Lifestyle
- Early and Over-Reliance on Walkers
Chronic Sedentary Lifestyle
Just as you don’t miraculously feel a year older on your birthday, your balance and fall risk likely didn’t start one day when you woke up at 75 years old. It is in large part due to a chronic lack of physical activity. What does physical activity do to guard against falls? It helps challenge your balance and maintain your ability to correct against gravity’s resistance quickly and effectively. Our ankle strategy is our first line of defense against losing our balance.
Early and Over-Reliance on Walkers
The most logical thing to do when you start feeling less confident on your feet is to grab a walker. Those 4 wheel kinds with the seat and little storage pouch are so cool and convenient! Maybe you don’t really want one, but your family, friends, and/or physician are pressuring you to use one. It is a great option for many, however, as soon as you put your hands on a “stable” object like a walker, your hands are taking away the consistent challenge to your ankle strategy, progressively reducing your ankles’ ability to fight against gravity.
So why shouldn’t we all just walk around with walkers as soon as we get the slightest bit unsteady?
I had a client recently share about her most recent fall. She uses a walker with four wheels exclusively in her home and community. She was working in her kitchen and went to open the freezer. She assumed that the walker and freezer were going to be stable, however she quickly learned while lying on the floor that they were not as stable a combination as she thought. This miscalculation resulted in a trip to the ER for imaging, luckily without any broken bones (this time).
What Can You Do About It?
If you are at an age and ability to do something daily to challenge your balance we encourage you to do so! Walking, hiking, yoga, tai chi, running, and resistance training are all effective ways to challenge your balance. When was the last time you got up from the ground? Do you have kids or grandkids? Do you avoid getting on the floor to play with them because you are afraid of getting back up?
Also keep in mind the daily exercise recommendations found here that can directly help improve your balance. If you are past the age of comfortably and confidently working on your balance on your own, reach out to a physical therapist in the area that can work with you to reduce your risk of a fall and serious injury and help you relearn how to get up from the floor.
Lastly, if you live alone or spend a large part of your day alone, please consider a wearable device like a medallion or watch that can help notify someone of the fall. If you fall due to a stroke, it can greatly increase the likelihood of administration of time sensitive medical intervention that can significantly decrease post stroke impairments.
Your balance and fall risk will gradually increase over a few months to years of not challenging your balance. Physical activity will help challenge your balance and maintain your ability to correct against gravity’s resistance quickly and effectively. If you feel your balance failing, don’t be so quick to remedy it with a walker, because as soon as you put your hands on a “stable” object like a walker, you are reducing your ankles’ ability to fight against gravity. Instead, opt to plan a visit to your physical therapist (or have them come to you) to safely challenge your balance and maintain your independence!
About Live Life Physiotherapy
At Live Life Physiotherapy, we are invested in your long game. We offer coaching packages to help with accountability and progress towards your goals. Live Life Physiotherapy provides an COVID-19-friendly alternative to traveling to a physical therapy clinic, through mobile physical therapy. We provide outpatient care to San Diego, La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, and the surrounding area.
Outpatient physical therapy includes but isn’t limited to; telehealth physical therapy, rehabilitation physical therapy, labral tears, sciatica, low back pain, elderly fall prevention, orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Reach out today so we can help you Live Life, the way you want to live it.