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Posts for tag: fall

By Dr. Doug Williams
May 17, 2016
Category: Healthy Aging
Tags: prevention   fall  
This week's blog is on fall prevention. Falls are serious business and not just for chiropractic offices! Chances are, if you haven't had a serious fall or know someone who has, you will soon.

Below are a few interesting fall statistics from the Center for Disease Controls:
  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 700,000 patients/year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year, at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually. Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.
Most people associate falling, especially serious falls, with just "getting older." That is just what happens when we age, right?

Question: Do you think that your balance is fine up until age 65 and then on your birthday, POOF! it just goes away?

Yeah, I don't think so either!

Balance is a complex dance between your nerves, muscles, joints and brain. Each one of these components needs to be firing in sequence and with precision and strength in order for you not to trip over the cat. If your muscles are strong, but your joints are stiff, then you'll have problems. If your joints are mobile but your nerve system is slow, then you'll have problems. If your joints are mobile and your nerve system is firing well, but your muscles are weak, then you'll have problems!

Now, obviously we don't live in our bodies forever, and an 80-year old is not the same as an 8-year old. There are also diseases that attack the muscles, nerves and joints that can lead to poor balance and falls. But, I have also treated 85-year olds who move more like 45-year olds. I would wager to say that a large number of falls are not disease-related and not solely due to age. The scientific literature bears this out, leading to Fall Prevention becoming a huge industry.

Doc, tell me something I don't know! Many of you reading this might find it interesting and maybe even helpful for someone you know, but hey, you haven't had any falls right? Why worry now? Isn't fall prevention something you do in a nursing home? Yes and no. It is vital that those of a certain age and/or who have had previous falls to engage in a fall-specific training program. However, if you wait until you've actually had a fall to start working on preventing one, you are way behind the eight ball!  A more accurate way to think about fall prevention is to re-frame it as Balance Training. When you start accessing and improving your current level of balance competency, you have the benefit of improving your health now AND later!  

One of the easiest ways to see where your current level of balance is the Single Leg Stance Test. The name of the test sums it up: you should be able to stand unassisted with your eyes open on one leg for a reasonable amount of time. For ages 50-59, you should be able to stand on one leg for about 35-39 seconds or longer. Younger than that, a longer period of time; older than that, slightly less.

If you try this test and find yourself wanting, regardless of your age or fall history, THE TIME TO START TRAINING IS NOW! Don't worry, training is easy: practice the Single Leg Stance Test several times a day - while brushing your teeth, talking on the phone (unless you are in the car), taking a break from working at the computer, etc. Remember, balance is a complex dance between the brain, nerves, muscles and joints. When you train for balance, you are training all of these systems, and you will reap benefits in all of these areas individually and collectively!

For more information on falls, check out the CDC website. Give the following exercise a try!  Remember, it is never to late or early to begin a healthy lifestyle!
Here's to your health!
Doug Williams, D.C.
Care Chiropractic, Lafayette