Falls are an ominous yet very real part of life for people over 65, although many falls can be prevented once the cause is determined. Over 400 risk factors leading to falls have been identified including: lack of physical activity resulting in loss of muscle tone, decreased bone mass, poor balance, reduced flexibility, impaired vision, medications, disease including Parkinson’s, dementia, stroke and arthritis, surgery, and environmental hazards.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that the number of elderly people who die each year from falls has quadrupled over the past decade. 1530 people over the age of 75 died from falls in 2011, compared to 365 in 2002. Falls are also the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in persons aged 65 years and over in Australia. In 2011–12, 96,385 people aged 65 and over were hospitalised for a fall-related injury. The increasing rate of fall-related hospital admissions reflects Australia’s ageing population. The number of fall-related hospitalisations for older people has increased 2.3% per year between 1999–00 and 2010–11.
Osteopaths have become increasingly aware of, and concerned about, the risk of falls and its hazardous long term effects on the older generation. Osteopaths have seen the devastating effects falls can have on an individual and their loved ones. More often than not they result in serious injury, loss of confidence, and reduced mobility. All of these can subsequently lead to loss of independence and quality of life. It’s a frustrating time when dealing with falls and fall risks.
Osteopaths can play a crucial role in the prevention of falls in older people. There is evidence that appropriately prescribed interventions can be beneficial. The strongest single predictor of future falls is a history of previous falls. This is probably because an individual’s reason for falling the first time is likely to recur. Assessment of physical functioning is the next strongest predictor.
Exercise programs for balance, strength & falls prevention
Exercise is a fall prevention intervention because it addresses impaired muscle strength and poor postural control, which are known factors that increase the risk of falls. Programs typically involve exercises that target balance and gait, functional tasks, strength, flexibility and endurance.
Evidence shows that home-based exercise programs containing some form of balance and strength training are the most important intervention strategy to effectively decrease falls.
Strength and balance retraining is one of the most effective long term fall prevention measures. It incorporates cardiovascular and metabolic components that add to greater stability and boosts self-confidence. Research shows that falls can be prevented by retraining your balance and improving muscular strength, endurance and flexibility.
Osteopathy helps you maintain your vital independence with the implementation of individual, group class and home exercise programs for balance, strength and fall prevention. Our programs are individually tailored from assessment through to exercise prescription. This allows us to accurately identify which of the myriad of potential causative factors are at play and address them specifically. Catering exercises and treatments to your needs is key for your road to recover.
It is never too late to start exercising, if you or a member of your family are concerned with your safety and balance, we would love the opportunity to assist you.