Physical Therapy and Fall Prevention

October 17, 2013

Falls among seniors are quite common, dangerous, and can limit their ability to lead an active and independent life style. This year approximately one in three seniors over 65, and almost one in two seniors over age 80 will suffer at least one fall, many with devastating consequences. The good news is that balance may be improved. Fall prevention can start with an evaluation by your Physical Therapist. They can develop a customized treatment plan which includes exercise to improve strength, mobility, and balance.

Warning: don’t perform this test alone – to minimize the risk of a fall, have someone stand next to you.

Stand in front of a firm surface:

Try to keep head over shoulders and shoulders over hips
A. Tighten buttocks
B. Bend hips and knees
C. Set abdominals
A. Keep head and shoulders up
B. Don’t jerk
C. Exhale

Common Factors Associated With Falls

• Conditions associated with aging
• Loss of strength, endurance or flexibility
• Trouble with balance or walking
• Poor vision
• Pre-existing medical conditions which can affect mobility, such as Parkinson disease, strokes, or diabetes
• Disorders that can result in confusion (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc…)
• Being on four or medications simultaneously
• Using an assistive device for walking
• Environmental risks (e.g., throw rugs, pets, stairs)
• Challenges in completing activities of daily living
• Low blood pressure
• Pain
• Poor posture

Keep Moving

It is crucial for individuals to maintain their physical activity in order to prevent falls. Physical Therapist advise that you maintain fitness related activities at any level such as gardening, dancing, yoga, regular exercises to help develop balance and improve movement.

How is Your Balance?

Exercises that develop strength in the ankle, knee, and hip musculature or that improve the performance of the vestibular (balance) system can improve your balance. You can complete a quick check of your current balance at home.
1. Stand tall, wearing flat, closed shoes, with your arms folded across your chest. Keep your eyes open, focus on an object in front of you, raise one leg, bending the knee about 45 degrees, and start a stopwatch.
2. Remain on one leg, stopping the watch immediately if you uncross your arms, tilt sideways more than 45 degrees, move the leg you are standing on, or touch the raised leg to the floor.
3. Repeat this test with the other leg.
4. Compare your performance to normal results for various ages
• 20 to 59 years old (28 to 29 seconds)
• 60 to 69 years (27 seconds)
• 70 to 79 years (15 seconds)
• 80 and older (6 seconds)

What Can a Physical Therapist Do To Help?

Following a complete review of your past medical history and a detailed assessment your Physical Therapist can plan out a customized program of exercises and functional activities that will develop flexibility, strength, balance, coordination and walking.

If appropriate a Physical Therapist will suggest consultation with other medical professionals.

General body mechanics principles

• Lifting, carrying, and reaching – it’s not how much you’re lifting or carrying, but how you do it.

• Think ahead and analyze the activity you are about to perform before performing it.

• Decide on the safest way to accomplish the task.

General rules

1. Maintain good posture at all times, maintain normal spinal curves.

2. Stand with feet apart, toes pointing in the direction you are facing.

3. Test the load before lifting

4. Prepare muscles for action:

5. Always use large leg muscles for strength and power rather than small back muscles.

6. As you lift:

7. Always keep the weight close to your body or stand close to the task.

8. Do not twist your trunk, pivot feet.

9. Pushing is better than pulling.

Get help whenever necessary or if situation is question

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