How Can You Prevent Falls?

By Kateri Kane, PT, DPT

Every year one out of three adults 65 and older experience a fall, according to the CDC. Of these individuals, 20-30% suffer moderate to severe injuries. The CDC also states that the risk of falling and being seriously injured in a fall increase with age, with 82% of deaths related to falls having occurred in people 65 and older in 2008. The question is, what can you do to avoid becoming one of these statistics?

Balance is one of the most important components of fall prevention. It can include both static (stationary sitting, standing) and dynamic (walking, turning) activities. Your body utilizes three systems in order to maintain balance: the visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems. We could write an entire article on what these systems entail, but when it comes to your balance, these are the essentials. Vision lets you see where you’re going, the somatosensory systems lets you feel what’s under your feet (flat surface, uneven, etc.), and the vestibular system lets your brain know that you’re moving. A disruption in any of these systems can cause major balance deficits whether it is from an incorrect eyeglass prescription, peripheral neuropathy related to diabetes, vertigo, etc.

In addition to deficits in these systems, any nervous system or musculoskeletal system pathology can affect your balance. Conditions such as a stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, a hip fracture, or muscle weakness can lead to falls. So, how do you prevent this? You may not be able to prevent all the conditions mentioned previously, but being aware of your deficits and doing things to counter them is your best strategy to prevent a future fall.

Step 1: Find out what deficits are present. Certain problems may be obvious to you. For example, you may notice that you repeatedly trip over the throw rugs in your home or you stumble around in the middle of the night if you have to get up and use the restroom. Simply removing your throw rugs and placing a red nightlight in your room are quick fixes to these problems. Other problems may not be as obvious. No two people are the same so,if you have a specialist assess you, that person will be able to tell you where your individual deficits lie.

Step 2: Utilize specific exercises and balance activities to train yourself.The brain has a certain degree of plasticity, which means that it can learn new things as long as it is trained to do so. Practice and challenging your balance are the best ways to improve stability.This should always be done in a SAFE environment which is why seeing a specialist is so important when you suspect any problems with your balance.

A general guideline for those both with and without balance deficits is regular exercise and continued activity, especially weight bearing activities like walking or Tai Chi. These are good ways to maintain musculoskeletal health.

In order to continue to raise awareness about the risk of falls as well as offer an important service to the community, Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness will be providing FREE balance screenings on Thursday, September 20, 2012 from 10am to noon. We encourage everyone to come down and be screened. Once again feel free to leave any comments or suggestions for future posts. Our next entry will be related to backpack safety as the school year gets underway. Thank you and stay active.

Resources:

CDC

Flashlight Reviews

What is PT?

By Kateri Kane, PT, DPT

Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness

 Kateri KaneMy name is Kateri Kane. I am a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) working at Advanced Physical Therapy and Fitness, a private orthopedic physical therapy clinic in Mechanicsburg, PA.  My goal and the goal of this company in writing this blog is to educate the general public about various physical therapy related issues, and provide viable information to the community regarding injury prevention, common pathologies related to PT, the effects of aging, your rights as a patient, and many other topics.  The first issue we would like to introduce is “What is PT?” because this is a question we have heard frequently.

I can’t count the number of times I have had a patient tell me, “I didn’t know you could treat that,” or “You’re a PT? Can you give me a massage?” It’s frustrating as a physical therapist, but it’s also eye opening. How is anyone supposed to know what we do unless we get the word out there?

According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, physical therapy is, “Rehabilitation concerned with restoration of function and prevention of disabilities following disease, injury, or loss of body part. The therapeutic properties of exercise, heat, cold, electricity, ultraviolet, and massage are used to improve circulation, strengthen muscles, encourage return of motion, and train or retrain an individual to perform the activities of daily living.” In other words, we areNOTsimply “glorified masseuses.”  Physical therapists go through 6-7 years of schooling on average and receive either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree.  Some seasoned clinicians still have bachelor’s degrees, but all current programs require at least a master’s level and have phased to primarily doctoral programs.

Now, we have nothing against massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical trainers, athletic trainers, or chiropractors.  Our goal is simply to inform the general public that each of these professions is different and has a unique set of skills.

As PTs, we have the opportunity to treat a WIDEvariety of individuals: from a person with a total knee replacement to a soldier with a traumatic brain injury, or from a pregnant woman with low back pain to a child with cerebral palsy, and the list goes on.  There are a multitude of nichesin which a PT can focus including: orthopedics, neuroscience, cardiopulmonary, vestibular, pediatrics, women’s health, manual therapy, aquatics, and even military service.

Physical therapists utilize modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, laser, heat/cold, traction and techniques such as massage and taping to supplement treatments; but by no means are these modalities and techniques the only forms of treatment we use.  We treat with exercise, balance training, manual therapy, education, and various other specific techniques to improve patient function with the primary focusof helping each individual reach a greater level of independence.

We plan to go into greater depth regarding the function of a physical therapist in future posts, but our hope is that this introduction has cleared up some questions you may have been having.  Our next entry will relate to the topic of balance, what factors may cause deficits, and what you can do to decrease your risk for falls.  We encourage any comments or suggestions, especially to let us know what you would like to hear about most.  Thank you for reading and stay active.

Coming Next Week

Look for the first installment of our new blog next week:  "What is PT?"

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  Disclaimer:  The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.