Falls, Falling and Physical Therapy
So, I was hiking the trail out by North Central Michigan College last weekend with Elizabeth. After the recent melt and freeze there were plenty of treacherous spots, but we navigated the icy trail wonderfully. It was in a seemingly clear spot that I got caught completely off guard and slipped. I’d like to say my years of Hapkido training kicked in, that I managed to turn it into a gentle fall or maybe even a graceful roll-- but no, I straight up bit it! Luckily, I didn’t drag my wife down with me or break anything because we were way back in the woods at that point. But my throbbing knee on the hike back got me thinking about falls and falling.
Truth is, a lot of people don’t know how prevalent falls are or appreciate how dangerous falling really is…
Did you know that falling is the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide?
It’s true, according to the world health organization almost 650,000 people die each year from an accidental fall.1 More than twice as many as in 1990! And there are an estimated 155 million significant but non-fatal falls each year. These result in more than 37 million medical visits and over 17 million disability-adjusted life years lost every year! Children (including teens) and the elderly are most at risk—with 1/3 of people over 65-years-old falling once per year.2 In one study looking at those 65+ who had a fractured and then surgery to repair it, the overall 1-year postoperative mortality was 27.3% and mortality after hip fracture at the end of the study was an astounding 79.0%-- 3x higher than the general population across all causes of death.3
Did you know that falls are classified as a preventable injury?
Also true! While age, illness, medications and even gender all factor into falling, one’s fall risk can be quickly and effectively screened. At Optimum DPT the Osteopractic Physiotherapy Specialists of Michigan patient self-assessments like the Dizziness Handicap Inventory and a battery of functional tests including mCTSIB, Timed Up and Go, mini-BESTest, Tinetti Balance & Gait Assessment, and Dynamic Gait Index are used to quickly and, easily determine someone’s risk for falling. If positive, these tests, along with listening to the patient’s history and other physical examinations, let me diagnose the underlying cause for the disturbed balance and develop the best plan of care for them.
Did you know that physical therapy is effective for reducing fall risk, preventing injury and disability, maintaining independence and saving money?
And true for at third time! Treatment can take many shapes and forms. For some it’s vestibular physiotherapy (working on the inner ear or nerves to the ears) to treat vertigo. Others need to retrain their sense of position in space or challenge their ability change their center of gravity. Many benefit greatly from improving their strength and cardiovascular endurance. For a surprising number of people just a few simple ideas for the home to make things safer (e.g. moving rugs, installing a grab bar, or plugging in a night light) is what they need. Occasionally collaborating with your primary care physician and pharmacist to adjust medications or referring you to an optometrist for eye care can be the treatment you need.
Regardless, being tipsy is not normal. Falling is far more dangerous than people realize— but also very treatable. If you or someone you know is having a balance problem, contact our Petoskey office at 231-881-9770 or firstname.lastname@example.org we can discuss your concerns and see if a balance assessment at Optimum DPT or another northern Michigan physical therapy clinic is right for you!
Until next time,
Matthew Gaunt, DPT, ATC, Dip. Osteopractic, FAAOMPT