As we get older it is completely normal for our muscles, bones, joints and associated tissues to change. Our ability to move efficiently can be impacted by these changes and this can lead to an increased risk of falls and subsequent injury.
Falls are common in people aged 65 years and over, with 30-40% falling at least once a year. One in four falls results in an injury and a small portion result in a serious injury e.g. hip and wrist fractures, as well as shoulder and head trauma.
If you have fallen in the last 12 months, statistically you are more likely to fall again. The fear of falls can affect quality of life (e.g. avoiding activities once enjoyed as a result of concern about falling) and ability to live independently.
Understanding what factors contribute to falls helps to determine the best way to intervene and prevent falls from happening, and getting you back to doing the activities you enjoy!
- A fall is “an unexpected event” in which the participant comes to a rest on the ground, floor, or lower level. A slip, trip or lost of your balance when you land on a lower level.
- Although many falls can be prevented, 1 in 3 people aged over 65 and falling at least once a year. By identifying and managing your risk factors, you can reduce your risk of falling.
- Many falls do not involve environmental hazards such as loose rugs or slippery floors. They occur in and around a persons home during their daily activities. 50% to 60% of falls are inside the home or in the yard. Often on a level surface in commonly used rooms such as the bedroom, lounge and kitchen.
What can cause a fall? Am I at risk?
People can fall for many reasons; in some cases, a number of factors can combine and lead to a fall. The reason or causes of falls are known as risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to fall. Falls can be a sign of poor balance, weak muscles, poor vision, chronic disease, and many other things.
Falls can also be a sign of a new medical problem and should be discussed with your doctor. Some risk factors for falls are outlined below:
poor vision, arthritis, stroke, incontinence, cognitive decline, illness, physical inactivity
Your mental health
depression, dementia, anxiety, fear of falling, confusion
our physical condition
poor balance, weak muscles, slow reaction time, slow walking speed
medication side effects, taking 4 or more medications at a time, sleeping tablets
poor lighting, trip hazards, footwear
You can test your risk level by clicking on this quiz: What is my risk of falling?
Even if you haven’t had a fall, reducing your risk of falling in the future is really important. You can talk to a team of health care professionals, if you have any concerns regarding your fall risk.
- A GP can provide a medication review to ensure your medications are not a risk factor.
- A GP can also assist in monitoring your bone mineral density levels. If this is low it can increase the chances of you fracturing a hip if you do have a fall.
- A Podiatrist can manage foot pain and other feet conditions.
- A Dietitian can help you with a healthy balanced diet.
- A Osteopath for safe strengthening and balance exercise programs.
- An Optometrist can check your eyes and correct visual problems e.g. Cataract surgery, consider single lens glasses for outdoor mobility.
- Occupational Therapist to meet safety requirements. Such as installation of hand rails around the home.
You can also do a home safety check yourself by clicking on the link: Home safety checklist
Can exercise help me?
Exercise is the most effective action you can take to prevent falls. A guided exercise program can help to strengthen your muscles and bones, increase your stamina, and improve your sense of balance. This in turn can help to reduce your concern about falling, and increase your confidence!
Staying physically active (a mere 10 minutes or more per day!) is enough to increase your body temperature and breathe a little harder, whilst still being able to have a conversation, and can help reduce the risk of circulation problems and falls. It can also help to improve your mood and confidence levels.
However, just walking does not prevent falls! Specific balance exercises are often the most effective. You may be able to improve balance at home by doing the following program at least once a day (twice if you aren’t participating in other physical activities)
Press on each exercise to see how they are performed or contact Bodywell Healthcare for a printed or emailed copy of this exercise program.
Falls Prevention land base strength and balance
If these exercises inspire you to do activities at home, why not try out the Otago exercise program on Youtube, that you can follow along. Just click the following link: Otago Exercise Program (OEP)
Always remember, with any exercise program it is important to listen to your body and move at a pace that you are comfortable with. You may want to have a friend or family member accompany you (or to participate with you!) for at least the first few times.
What else can I do?
Try other exercise interventions along with your balance program twice a week to help reduce the risk of falling, particularly if you are over the age of 65. Housework and gardening are other activities you can do at home.
Try to include exercises focusing on arms, legs and the whole body. For example, controlled reaching or leaning outside your own centre of gravity (i.e. Tai Chi) are effective ways to help improve balance and coordination.
Here are some group activities that can help with fall prevention in the Mernda area and surrounds – click on the link to find out more:
Strength and Balance programs
What should I do if I fall?
A surprising and startling statistic is that up to half of non-injured fallers are unable to get to their feet again. If you can’t get up again, you are at greater risk of falling again. Being stuck on the floor for longer than 60 minutes can increase your risk of pressure sores, hypothermia, and dehydration.
If you are at risk of falls, or if you have had one or more previous falls, we highly recommend that you have a system in place so that you are confident in being able to notify someone if you have a fall. If you don’t know if you can get up and down off the floor, then you need to get down there and see if you can. Once you have done it, keep doing it! Like with most things, practice makes perfect and in this case is to prevent and reduce the fear of falling.
The best way to reduce panic about being on the floor is if you know that you can get up because you have been doing it every day. Here is a video that may assist you in practicing how to get up off the floor: How to get up off the floor after a fall
In addition to the injuries sustained in a fall, it can also be very damaging for confidence levels. Rebuilding strength after a fall is very important and is something that we can help with! Once injuries such as fractures have been ruled out, at Bodywell Healthcare we may help assist your body in recovering from a fall, and work with you to improve your mobility, balance, and strength.
We are always eager to help, so if you need more advice or assistance on any exercises to keep you on your feet and maintain your independence as you age, feel free to contact us and have a chat with our friendly team of osteopaths.
If you would like to make an appointment, you can book online here:
Or if you have any questions please call us on (03) 9717 1200 or email [email protected]