As we get older, falling, and recovering from a fall, becomes more of a concern. Prevention is key here, so I’ve put together six key questions to ask yourself.
1. Has your balance been getting worse and do you need to see your GP or other health specialist to be checked out with regard to the following?:-
Eyes - do you need cataract surgery, new glasses or other treatment to improve your vision? Avoid wearing bi-focals or multi-focals when walking outside or climbing your stairs. Use single focus glasses only when on the move!
Ears - any problems with the ears affects the balance centres and can cause vertigo or dizziness, so get these problems checked out and treated where possible.
Neuropathy - the loss of sensation in the feet is a common symptom of some medical conditions.
Weakness in the legs and back following injury or surgery which has not been rehabilitated.
Medication review – certain prescription such as opioids, blood pressure, sedative and antihistamine medication may cause dizziness as a side effects- if you experience this, discuss it with your GP or pharmacist.
Some more general factors to consider:
Sleep - are you allowing yourself 8 hours per night even if you aren’t sleeping the entire time?
Food and diet - you need plenty of vitamin D and calcium for your bones, and lean protein for muscle strength.
Hydration - you need to drink 1.5 litres/8 glasses of fluid per day (and more as it gets hotter!) to keep your blood volume up. If you are dehydrated, this causes your blood pressure to drop and make you feel dizzy.
2. Are you getting regular exercise?
Research has shown that regular exercise improves balance especially if its around 3 hours per week- this could work out as only 30 minutes, 6 days per week . The best exercise includes:
Daily strength exercises for your muscles
Daily specific balance exercises.
For a complete handout outlining some good strength and balance exercises to get you started, contact us at Elizabeth House Osteopathy.
3. How are your reaction times?
If you feel yourself about to fall, having quick reactions will help you right yourself, or get your arms out to stop you falling on your face. To improve your reactions, try:
Regular hand clapping and catching games /exercises.
Avoiding distraction when on the move, like talking on the phone or texting.
Keeping awareness in your body at all times, paying attention to your core as you move.
4. What shoes are you wearing?
The most supportive footwear are lace ups with a low collar and standard hardness of sole.
Avoid bare feet, socks, tights, high heels, or soft floppy slippers!
Try an in-sole- preferably textured, but any good in-sole will do. Some research shows it will improve your balance.
5. Have you checked your home environment?
Clear the floor – make sure no rugs, electrical cords, or toys could potentially trip you up. Wipe up spills wet areas and make sure all mats are nonslip.
Lighting – make lighting as bright as possible and let lots of natural light in during the day. For night time trips to the bathroom turn on the lights, or better yet, you could get automatic lights! Make sure you also have a bedside light nearby that’s easy to switch on.
Rails- especially helpful around any stairs and bathroom areas.
Outdoor areas and pathways – check they are clear and free of slippery hazards such as moss or ice.
6. Have you thought about a Medical Alert System?
Finally, medical alert systems are really useful, as they alert someone to help you if you do fall and cannot get up. There are many different types on the market to choose from. It also helps to have a strategy planned out for what to do if you do fall.
Regaining you confidence after a fall
Addressing the above points will help you regain your confidence if you have had a fall or are simply afraid of falling. It is best to get checked out after a fall, even if you feel fine. Let someone know it happened, and see your GP, or visit us- at Elizabeth House Osteopathy as we can help you to recover from the injury of a fall.
We can also offer a physical assessment of your strength and balance and provide you with some tailored exercises to do at home to improve your walking and movement. Call for further information or book a free 15 minute consultation by phone or at the surgery to discuss.