Falling is, unfortunately, something that happens to everyone. It is a main contributor to injury, hospitalization, and even admission into nursing home. Although it is important for everyone to know how to fall properly to avoid these situations, it is particularly important for older adults as our "righting" or balance reactions naturally slow as we age. Individuals with diabetes or any kind of nerve problem in their legs or feet should also heed this advice. Impaired sensation means that your legs and feet cannot tell you when they are standing or stepping on, which can lead to you losing your balance and falling. Those with osteopenia or osteoporosis are also at a much higher risk of sustaining a significant injury with even just a stumble, therefore, avoid a fall or falling properly is paramount. Additionally, those with chronic dizziness are also at a higher risk of falling and should take note of these tips (read our previous blogpost on dizziness and how PT can help here).
The New York Times has posted an excellent article explaining the right and wrong ways to fall (read full article here). Here are the highlights:
- Falling on your outstretched hands or knees. This can lead to broken bones.
- Falling directly forward or backward. This can lead to head injury causing a concussion or hemorrhaging (bleeding) either on the skin level or within the brain tissue.
- Staying rigid on impact. This doesn't allow your body to absorb or distribute the forces from falling and increases your chance of injury.
- Fall onto the "fleshy" parts of your body such as your hip and/or shoulder. Falling on these areas may lead to some bruising and soreness, but can help you avoid breaking bones.
- Protect your head. Use your arms to cover your head to avoid direct trauma to your skull.
- Stay loose on impact. It's one of the hardest parts, but not bracing for impact will allow your body to absorb the blow better and avoid injury.
The physical therapists can do so much more in terms of falling as well. To avoid falling in the first place, we will assess your gait (walking pattern), muscular strength and endurance, current balance reactions, and screen you for any vestibular or visual impairments that may need to be addressed to fully improve your balance.
When we find areas that are of concern, we work specifically on those areas until you and/or we feel that we have restored your balance and safety as much as possible. We will even talk to you about how to improve the set up in your home to avoid fall hazards such as throw rugs or unsafe steps/stairs.
We will also work with you on the best way to get up from a fall. It's extremely important to minimize injury when you fall, but you're still in a lot of trouble if you can't get off of the ground and don't have a phone near you.
Call us at 314-733-5000 or email Lesley@integrate360pt.com or Nancy@integrate360pt.com and let us help you stay safe in your own home!