Fall Prevention With Physical Therapy
Falls are a very common reason that we see patient’s in physical therapy, particularly in older individuals. The problem is, we typically only see the patients who have fallen AFTER they have seriously hurt themselves. Prior to the broken hip, hand, or shoulder, these older adults have often fallen several times, yet, it isn’t until later that we begin to treat balance and strength deficits preventing these falls. As physical therapists, we know that prevention of major injury is key, therefore, if you or a loved one has had a fall in the last year it is recommended that you see a healthcare provider to be evaluated for fall risk.
There are three systems involved in balance: vestibular, visual, and somatosensory. Your vestibular system is also known as your inner ear. This system is involved in telling your head where the body is in relation to gravity. You can have issues with this system for various reasons which can result in issues with dizziness, vertigo, and poor balance reactions, as your body can’t correlate where it is in regards to gravity.
Your visual system is another system that works hard when you are balancing. Your eyes give you information about your environment, such as whether there is a curb or split in the sidewalk that you need to avoid. Without your visual system, balancing becomes increasingly hard, which is why people often fall at night when it is difficult to see. Your somatosensory system is the system for balance which is within your skin and muscles. This system provides your body with information about where your body is in space based on what you feel within your skin and muscles. Diseases such as diabetes can affect this system as they cause conditions such as peripheral neuropathy resulting in limited sensation in patient’s feet.
Physical therapy works to up-train all these systems in order to prevent falls. Additionally, physical therapists work on muscle strength by performing functional strength training during their sessions. Strength and speed of movement is not only important to prevent falls, but it helps patients get up off the floor if they do happen to fall. While balance training is very important, it is both difficult and sometimes unsafe to perform without the help of a physical therapist. If you or a loved one has fallen in the last year, please contact us to schedule an appointment in order to improve your balance today.