Falls are the top cause of accidents in people over the age of 65. Falls are also the main cause of serious injuries and accidental deaths in older people.
Even older people who appear to be strong and well can fall. Falling is a real threat to your ability to live on your own.
How likely are you to fall if you’re older?
The harsh reality is that older people are more likely to fall down, and they’re also more likely to injure themselves when they fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 25% of people 65 or older fall each year. They also report that:
- 20% of falls cause a serious injury.
- About 3 million older people are treated for fall injuries annually.
- More than 800,000 older patients per year are hospitalized due to a fall injury.
Such statistics clearly show how significant your fall risk is if you’re older, but it also demonstrates how severe the consequences of falling can be for older Americans.
So, many older adults and family caregivers are interested in fall prevention because the risks are so great. And the good news is that although it’s not possible to prevent all falls, it is almost always possible to take actions that will reduce the chance of a bad fall.
Why a fall happens
Why does a fall happen? Fundamentally, no matter who you are and what age you are here’s why:
In other words, we fall when we experience some kind of event that challenges our balance or strength. If this event overwhelms our ability to remain upright, down we go.
When we’re young and healthy, we tend to have lots of ability to stay upright. So if we stumble, we can often catch ourselves and recover before we fall. But of course, a big enough knock off-balance will send even a 20-year-old sprawling. And if that 20-year-old happens to be tipsy, it will take even less of a trigger to provoke a fall.
Illness or weakness is another situation that will reduce anyone’s ability to stay upright. (This is why people of all ages are prone to falling in the hospital.) But of course, older adults often have many other things going on which affect their ability to stay on their feet.
Why is the fall risk so much higher for older people?
There are several reasons why older people are more likely to fall. Some of these reasons are:
Muscle degeneration — As people grow older, their muscles are likely to grow weaker. These weaker muscles have a harder time helping you maintain your balance when walking or standing up. As a result, you’re more likely to fall down.
Osteoarthritis — Our joints also tend to wear out as we age, which can make balancing more difficult. Natural wear and tear on joint structures can lead to inflammation and a condition called osteoarthritis. This condition can cause joints to become stiffer and more painful. Such symptoms make it harder to respond quickly when you feel unbalanced.
Blurred vision — The eyes are another structure that increasing age can affect. It’s reported that about 33% of people develop a condition that reduces their vision by the time they’re 65. Vision problems can make it more difficult for you to balance. They can make you more likely to trip over objects, too.
How can physical therapists help decrease your fall risk?
Physical therapists can help reduce your risk of falling by developing a balance training program for you. One study found that such training helped reduce the number of falls that caused broken bones by 61%. Some physical therapy methods that may be included in your balance training plan include:
Therapeutic exercises intended to improve muscle strength and flexibility.
Active Release Techniques® designed to help increase joint flexibility and range of motion.
Graston Technique® sessions that focus on breaking up scar tissue in the body that is inhibiting your ability to balance.
Gaze stabilization exercises that can help train people to fight against the vision problems caused by dizziness and vertigo.
Health Plus PT offers treatment that can help lower your fall risk
Ready to work with a top-notch physical therapy team to decrease your fall risk? You’ll find exactly the type of team you’re looking for at Health Plus Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation in Edison, NJ.
Our team can do a screening on you to pinpoint the issues that are making you more likely to fall. Then, we can build you an individualized therapy plan designed to improve your ability to balance. You can even sign up for at-home care or virtual therapy session with us and treat your balance issues from home.
Contact our team today for more information about our balance rehab services or to schedule your initial appointment.