Tag Archives: Fall Prevention

Physical therapy improves balance and prevents falls

December 11, 2013
Dr. Jerry Moczerniuk P.T., D.P.T. , Clinical Director, db Orthopedic Physical Therapy Association

 

Research has shown that approximately 1/3 of all adults over the age of 65 suffer from at least one fall annually, the prevalence increases to 50 percent in adults over the age of 80. My goal for writing this article is to help the reader understand the reasons why adults over the age of 65 fall, and how to decrease the risk for falls in such population.

Falls are not only an inconvenience, but have also contributed in a major way to health care costs and disability in the older adults. Studies have shown that 20 percent of falls require some sort of medical attention. Furthermore, up to 10 percent of people who suffer from a fall sustain major injury such as major contusion/laceration, head trauma and disabling fractures. Fractures are a greater risk for patients with osteoporosis. You may also be surprised to find out that complications from falls are the leading cause of death from injury in adults over the age of 65.

There are multiple reasons why people fall and they include prior history of falls, visual deficits, gait abnormality, lower extremity weakness, arthritis, balance deficits and environmental hazards. As we age balance regresses, joints become more arthritic, flexibility decreases and reaction time slows down. However, balance impairments can be improved and the risk for falls can be reduced, with practice.

Medical studies show effectiveness of physical therapy interventions in treatment of balance dysfunction and therefore decreasing the risk for falls. Exercise programs may target strength, balance, flexibility or endurance. Programs that contain two or more of these components reduce rate of falls and number of people falling.

A skilled physical therapist is capable of accurately diagnosing balance dysfunction and risk for falls by a comprehensive evaluation including history taking, physical examination, as well as functional/balance tests.At db Orthopedic Physical Therapy we also utilize the Biodex Biosway system, a balance system created for accurate assessment of balance dysfunction and training purposes. The system allows us to establish a balance baseline, train, and later re-assess the patient to determine progress.

Physical therapy treatment should be patient specific and based on needs established during initial evaluation. Most often it will consist of a combination of balance activities, functional training, strengthening and stabilization exercises, as well as environmental awareness/modification training with the patient.

Dr. Moczerniuk is a doctor of physical therapy, member of American Physical Therapy Association, and a clinical director at db Orthopedic Physical Therapy of Manalapan, located at 120 Craig Road, Suite 2. Dr. Moczerniuk can be reached at 732-462-2162, via e-mail atJerry@dborthopt.com, or visit dborthopt.com.

Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls from the Mayo Clinic Staff

Originally posted on mayoclinic.org

Fall prevention: Simple tips to prevent falls

Falls put you at risk of serious injury. Prevent falls with these simple fall-prevention measures, from reviewing your medications to hazard-proofing your home.

Fall prevention may not seem like a lively topic, but it’s important. As you get older, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — make falls more likely. In fact, falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults. Still, fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life. Instead, consider six simple fall-prevention strategies.

 1. Make an appointment with your doctor

Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your doctor. Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring them with you to the appointment. Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, your doctor may consider weaning you off certain medications — such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants.
  • Have you fallen before? Write down the details, including when, where and how you fell. Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss your health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk — for example, do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style (gait) as well.

 2. Keep moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your doctor. He or she may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or refer you to a physical therapist. The physical therapist can create a custom exercise program aimed at improving your balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

 3. Wear sensible shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your stocking feet. Instead wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.

4. Remove home hazards

Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards. To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home.
  • Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.

 5. Light up your living space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:

  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances. Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

 6. Use assistive devices

Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

If necessary, ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist. He or she can help you brainstorm other fall-prevention strategies. Some solutions are easily installed and relatively inexpensive. Others may require professional help or a larger investment. If you’re concerned about the cost, remember that an investment in fall prevention is an investment in your independence.