A local news station recently highlighted a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sadly, Wisconsin has the highest rate of fatal falls among adults aged 65 and older in the country. Fortunately, physical therapy can lower the risk of falling.
Any fall can be debilitating. And just the fear of falling can limit a person’s lifestyle.
Physical and occupational therapists can help older people improve their balance.
A physical or occupational therapist can help people become more confident as they move. As a result, older people can experience:
- Improved balance
- Increased strength
- Enhanced flexibility
- Greater endurance
During the first appointment, the physical therapist will assess the person’s risk of falling. Next, the therapist will create a treatment plan to strengthen weak areas. Then the therapist will use one or more of the following methods to help the patient achieve better balance.
- Manual manipulation to release muscle tightness and increase flexibility of the hips, knees, and feet
- Balance and stability training
- Prescription of in-home exercises
- Strength and endurance training through activity
Frequently, patients can do some of these exercises at home. Others, like manual manipulation, require an office visit.
Pay attention to environmental factors to prevent falls.
- Look for hazards within the home. Besides rugs, cords, and wires, household clutter can create tripping hazards. Always assess walkways in the home to make sure they are clear. If rugs are necessary, tape down the edges with strong duct tape. If you’re entertaining an older person, walk through the house before the guest arrives to ensure pathways are clear.
- Be aware of slippery conditions. Water or liquid on the floor or on outdoor walking surfaces increases the risk of falls. Use extra care when navigating slippery surfaces. For that reason, it’s important to use a traction device, like Yaktrax® to navigate winter’s ice and snow safely.
- Take note of dizziness. When a person suffers from inner-ear issues or vertigo, they have a higher risk of falling. If dizziness is a factor, talk to a primary care provider. Some medications also cause this unpleasant effect. Be sure to contact the pharmacist to discuss alternative medications if necessary.
In conclusion, if you or your loved one have a higher risk of falling, make an appointment with a Bone & Joint occupational or physical therapist. They can provide you with a plan to reduce falls.
For more information, check out these articles:
Don’t fall for injuries this year
I feel dizzy. My head is spinnin’
Are you at risk for orthopedic injuries this winter?