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Fall Prevention

Falls and fear of falling can diminish your ability to lead a full and independent life. Although 1 in every 4 older adults falls each year, falling is not a part of normal aging. You have the power to reduce your risk of falls. A physical therapist can help you do so by:

  • Assessing your risk for falling
  • Designing an individualized plan for your fall-prevention needs
  • Helping you make your home as safe as possible
  • Educating you about the medical risk factors associated with falls
  • Providing you with appropriate exercises and balance training
  • Working with other health care professionals to address any underlying medical conditions that could increase your fall risk
  • Providing you with recommendations on appropriate community programs

What are Falls?

A fall is defined as any event that leads to an unplanned, unexpected contact with a supporting surface, such as the floor or a piece of furniture, that is not the result of a push or shove or the result of a medical event, such as a heart attack or fainting.

A near-fall is a stumble or loss of balance that would result in a fall if you were unable to catch yourself.

What are the factors that increase your risk of falling?

  • History of a previous fall
  • Being female
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle
  • Being in overall poor health
  • Recent hospitalization
  • Advanced age
  • Difficulty with walking or keeping your balance
  • Leg weakness
  • Becoming fatigued easily
  • Limited flexibility
  • Problems with your vision or skin (touch) sensation
  • Getting dizzy when you stand up from sitting or lying down (orthostatic hypotension)
  • Medical conditions: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson disease, or Alzheimer disease
  • Trouble with your memory and thinking
  • Joint pain or arthritis
  • Taking too many medications or taking certain types of medications
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Home hazards such as throw rugs, poor lighting, or a lack of handrails on stairs
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Inappropriate use of a walker or a cane

The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of falling.

How does physical therapy help reduce your risk of falling?

At CPTE, our physical therapists are experts at screening to determine if you are at risk of falling. If the screening shows that you are at risk, the therapist will perform a thorough evaluation, including:

  • Review of your medical history
  • Review of your medications
  • Simple vision test
  • Home safety assessment
  • Simple test of your thinking abilities
  • Check of your heart rate and blood pressure measurements at rest and while you change positions (from sitting/lying to standing)
  • Foot and footwear assessment
  • Balance, strength, and walking ability assessment

Based on the evaluation results, your physical therapist will design a plan that is tailored to your needs. 

What does a Fall Prevention Physical Therapy Treatment Program Include?

Under the guidance and supervision of CPTE’s physical therapists, your individually tailored program may include:

Balance Activities – This is an important and effective part of falls prevention. Your physical therapist will design exercises that challenge your ability to keep your balance as well as recover from a loss of balance in a safe and supportive environment. 

Gait Training – Your physical therapist identifies specific gait correction activities to reduce your risk of falling and to determine any appropriate assistive device and train you how to safely use the device if necessary.

Walking and moving –Your physical therapist may have you perform specific activities, such as:

  • Dance steps
  • Walking in circles
  • “Figure 8” exercises to strengthen the core abdominal muscles that help stabilize your body
  • Working through an obstacle course

Dual-Task Training – Older adults who have difficulty walking and talking at the same time are at a higher risk of falling. To help increase your safety during daily activities, your physical therapist can design a “dual-task” training program. This kind of training will challenge you to maintain walking speed, while you perform another task, such as counting backward, engaging in a conversation, or carrying a bag of groceries.

Strength training – Strengthening is a key element of fall prevention and is very effective in preventing falls, especially when combined with balance exercises. Your physical therapist will design an individualized strengthening program that focuses on specific muscle groups to help improve your standing balance, your balance while walking, and your ability to recover from a loss of balance.

Endurance training – Aerobic exercise is a physical exercise of relatively low intensity and long duration; it can help improve almost every aspect of your health including reducing your fall risk.

Pain management – Pain management plays a crucial role in older adults’ risk for falling and quality of life. Therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and other treatments will be added depending on the individual’s source of pain. Physical therapy has been shown to help individuals reduce or eliminate their need for pain medication, including opioids.

Education –  CPTE’s physical therapist takes time to explain how you can best manage your own risks for falling. 

Fear management – Fear of falling is actually a risk factor.  Your therapist will work with you to build your confidence and help you get back to the activities that you may be avoiding because you are afraid of falling. Your therapist will advise you about any activities that you should avoid.

Recommendations – Your physical therapist can provide recommendations based on your condition and goals to help you:

  • Increase the safety of your home environment by making changes
  • Adjust how you complete your daily tasks to reduce your fall risk
  • Choose appropriate footwear
  • Learn about proper nutrition, improving sleep schedule, and other general information that can help reduce your fall risk
  • Recommend community-based programs to for balance, strength, and flexibility
  • Refer to other health care providers if needed

To improve your balance, decrease your fall risk, and move better, contact us Center for Physical Therapy and Exercise and begin your individualized program today.