We all know activity is good for us. But if you have balance issues, a fear of falling may be a real concern that keeps you inactive.
There are many things that can contribute to your risk of falling. Fatigue, lack of sleep, drowsiness, use of certain medication and vision changes may increase the likelihood of a fall. Environmental factors such as cluttered walkways and transitions between floor surfaces also raise your risk. You may experience changes in physical performance that can increase your risk of falling, including range of motion deficits, loss of strength, balance problems (including dizziness or vertigo) and problems walking.
The way we walk can predict our likelihood of falling. People who are more likely to fall show decreased walking speed, decreased step length, increased step width, and excessive sway or weaving while walking. They may have significant difficulty making turns or backing up. Getting up and down from a chair may be more difficult as well.
Physical therapy is an effective way to address falling and lower the risk of falling. In physical therapy, patients work on strengthening and flexibility of the lower extremities, which can help them respond to variations in activity more easily. They also will work on developing safe balance strategies: for instance, making greater use of a stepping strategy versus grabbing onto things to stabilize themselves. Walking drills can help to develop greater confidence with backing, turning and negotiating obstacles and can assist in correcting deviations in walking patterns that increase a person’s chances of falling.
If you or a loved one have experienced a recent fall or are concerned about your balance, your first step should be to discuss this with your doctor. Your doctor may then refer you to physical therapy for evaluation and treatment. You may wish to undergo a free balance screening, which St. Anthony’s Sports and Therapy Services
provides periodically. The next balance screening
is April 10, 2018. Your results may be sent to your physician by request. Please call 314-849-2366 to make a balance screening appointment or for more information.