Mary Lehnen, PT, DPT and Laura Flanigan, MSOT, OTR/L
Why is fall prevention important? Physical and occupational therapists frequently treat patients whose injuries were caused by a fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for adults who are 65 years and older. Falls can lead to serious nonfatal injuries, including fractures of the head and hip. A fall on an outstretched hand, also known as a “FOOSH” injury, can lead to fractures and soft tissue tears of the hand, wrist, forearm and even the shoulder. Falls can be emotionally traumatic to some patients and they may avoid participating in exercise, leisure and necessary daily activities due to fear of falling. This can lead to deconditioning, isolation and negatively impacting an individual’s overall well-being and independence.
Many factors, including those related to an individual and their environment, can impact a person’s fall risk. One of the first factors that comes to mind for many is balance, which is controlled by three body systems – vision, vestibular, and sensation, specifically light touch sensation. This means that the brain relies on visual fixation on objects, the sense of where our bodies are in space, and the sensation of stable ground beneath our feet. Disruptions to any of these three systems may impair balance. These may include cataracts and retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy, vertigo, foot drop, or mechanical problems of the legs or feet. You can improve your balance by appropriately stimulating each aspect based on your condition. For example, in patients with diabetic neuropathy who have reduced sensation in the feet and therefore have a reduced ability to feel the ground beneath the feet, you can stimulate your visual and vestibular systems by closing your eyes and practicing weight shifts, respectively. This will help to improve the visual and vestibular systems’ input to the brain and accommodate given the condition. Below is a breakdown of the three body systems that make up your balance and methods to improve each system.
Whether you or someone you know is impacted by any of the above conditions, there are ways that you can easily modify your environment, daily activities and your routines to prevent falls.
Physical or occupational therapy can be your first stop for fall prevention and improvements to your balance. Click the button below to schedule a free assessment at a nearby Athletico today!
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 2015. Preventing falls: A guide to implementing effective community-based fall prevention programs. <https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/pdf/falls/fallpreventionguide-2015-a.pdf>
2. American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), 2012. Fall prevention for people with disabilities and older adults. <https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/Adults/Falls/FallPreventionwithDisabilitiesandOlderAdults.aspx>