Falls are the largest single cause of injury in NZ across all age groups, however most common in those 65 years and over. There are a number of causes of falls such as decreased balance and strength, poor vision, and certain medications and medical conditions.
Could you be at risk of falling?
- Have you had a fall in the last year?
- Are you taking four or more medications a day?
- Do you have Parkinson’s disease or a history of stroke?
- Do you feel you have any balance problems?
- Are you able to stand up from a chair without using your arms for support?
- Are you limiting what you do due to fear of falling?
If three or more of the above were YES then your risk of falling is high and you could benefit from seeing a physio.
How can physio help?
Your physio will look holistically at your health as well as assessing your physical abilities such as strength and balance to assess your risk of falling. From this they will develop an exercise program specifically for your needs in a way that will suit your lifestyle. This will likely include some exercises to improve your balance as well as increase the strength of your legs.
The importance of exercise in reducing the risk of falls is key. The consequence of not exercising is a decrease in muscle tone and strength as well as loss of bone mass. All of these factors have an impact on falls and the severity of injury resulting from the fall.
What else can you do to prevent falls?
As well as seeing a physiotherapist it is important to:
- Regularly exercise to improve your strength and balance.
- Have your eyes checked on a yearly basis
- Check with your GP regarding medicines you are taking and see if any have side effects such as dizziness
- Identify any hazards in your home that you could trip over and reduce/remove these
Both international and domestic-based studies have shown that physiotherapy is effective in reducing falls. Treatments include group programs such as Tai Chi and home-based exercise programs, as well as advice relating to making your home safer.