Falling is a major concern for many older adults.
A fall can result in joint injuries, fractures, neck and back pain, dizziness and concussions. A serious tumble can affect the rest of your life.
Physical therapy is recommended after a fall if you have injuries, pain, trouble with normal activities or you’re afraid of falling again.
“People have a large capacity at any age to build strength and improve balance,” said Erika Schmidt, a Marshfield Clinic physical therapist. “If you feel like you’re not able to do the things you want to after a fall, consider a physical therapy evaluation.”
Physical therapy treats injuries and restores function
The goals of physical therapy after a fall are unique to each patient. Generally, they include treating the injury, managing pain and improving balance and strength so the patient can return to normal activity. Each patient will receive a recovery program tailored to his or her needs.
It’s not unusual to fear falling again while climbing stairs, getting in and out of the bathtub or shower or getting jostled in crowded spaces.
“Practicing those activities in a controlled environment and working on your balance reactions can help you feel more confident,” Schmidt said.
Physical therapists use functional walking and balance tests to assess your risk of falling again. People who are at high risk may need a cane or walker. You may need to consider different living arrangements if you’re still unsafe at home with an assistive device.
Continue preventing falls at home
Fall prevention doesn’t end when physical therapy does. It is an ongoing process of improving strength and balance and keeping your home safe.
“Most patients get a home exercise program specifically for them,” Schmidt said. “They can continue to build balance and strength and address their deficits if they follow the program.”
Attend fitness classes for older adults or classes that teach balance and fall prevention skills. These are offered at local fitness centers, senior centers or Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
Get an eye exam and update your eyeglass prescription to avoid falls due to poor vision. Wear flat sturdy shoes that tie rather than shoes that can slide off your feet.
Make changes to your home environment like removing loose rugs and installing railings, shower grab bars and better lighting to reduce fall risk.