Physical Therapy & Fall Prevention

MediLodge of Taylor

MediLodge of Taylor Physical Therapy

by Ebony Rice, DPT, MediLodge of Taylor

Falls and fall-related injuries, such as fractures, are a growing problem among older adults, often causing longstanding pain, functional impairments, reduced quality of life and mortality. Falls are one of the leading causes of accidental death among people older than 65 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Among the elderly, most falls occur indoors during usual activities of daily living such as transfers into or out of bed and walking. Age related factors contributing to falls include but are not limited to: changes in postural control; changes in gait; and declining visual abilities.

With increasing age, muscle tone, strength, and proprioception (our internal sense of body position) are all decreased which may cause slower righting reactions. Ambulation is slower and older adults demonstrate a lower swing height which leads to catching of the toe or tripping. Visual conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and health related vision changes; all contribute to declines in depth perception, clarity, visual field, dark adaptation and color sensitivity which increases the risk of falling over unseen objects. Fall prevention is a multidimensional process. Physical therapy aides in the prevention of falls by assessing falls risk and addressing the impairments related to advanced aging. Physical therapists design and implement individualized regimens that include strengthening, gait and balance activities.

Exercises that focus on strengthening core/postural muscles along with those needed for ambulation (hip, knee and ankle muscles) can increase stability when performing functional mobility. Gait training with or without assistive devices is also a major component of physical therapy. Therapists may assess and recommend assistive devices, such as canes and walkers, which may be beneficial for older adults at high risk for falls. If not used properly, assistive devices can become a fall hazard. Choosing the appropriate assistive device, the appropriate height and gait training which focuses on safety and sequencing are all aspects of skilled therapy that should be performed by a physical therapist. The use of an assistive device will allow for the highest level of independence while increasing safety.

MediLodge of Taylor

MediLodge of Taylor Physical Therapy

Standing dynamic balance activities, such as throwing and catching a ball, facilitates balance reactions which are needed to correct yourself when loss of balance occurs. Physical therapy also implements balance activities that simulate functional activities performed daily, for example, reaching up into a cabinet.

Therapists educate patients and caregivers on ways to adapt or compensate for a deficit in the visual field. For example, a person who recently had a stroke may neglect the visual field on one side. Physical therapy focuses on training that individual to turn the head to increase the visual field and ensure safety when walking and/or performing functional mobility.

Physical therapists educate and instruct patients on fall recovery; the safest and most effective way of getting up after a fall occurs. Physical therapists also perform home evaluations to assess the possible hazards and adaptations needed to increase safety in the home while performing activities of daily living.

Falls are often unreported due to fear of losing ones independence. Repeated falls can be a sign of a change in medical status. There are many health conditions that may contribute to falls: stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, brain injuries, etc. Additionally, some medications that treat certain health conditions have possible side effects that may increase the chance of fall occurrence. Falls can be a sign of a more serious problem and should always be reported to a medical doctor. While physical therapy does not prevent falls, physical therapy may improve the impairments related to falls which in turn, decreases the risk of falls.

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For more information on locations and services, visit the MediLodge website.  Find us on Facebook for up-to-date pictures or watch our YouTube channel for videos of events and activities.

MediLodge of Taylor

MediLodge of Taylor

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