The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is running a campaign highlighting the role of physiotherapy in the prevention of falls. Falling in older age is a huge problem; falls are a major cause of disability and the leading cause of death in the over-75s. Fortunately, most falls do not result in serious injury, but in about five per cent of cases of those who do fall the person may need hospitalisation.
It is estimated that one in three people aged 65 years and over experience a fall at least once a year – this rises dramatically to one in two among 80-year-olds and older. Falls need to be considered seriously. Falls may occur as a result of a multitude of reasons: balance problems, muscle weakness, poor gait, taking too many medications or medications that can make you dizzy, excessive alcohol intake or home hazards (stick the rug down that always slips – now!). Also… impairment in eyesight, incontinence (rushing to the toilet is an unfortunate common scenario), fear of falling (which can lead to altered movements), and cognitive impairments such as dementia.
One of the strongest predictors of a fall is experience of previous falls: i.e. if you’ve fallen once you’re likely to fall again. While this is all very depressing it is good to know that physiotherapy can help. Exercise is the most highly researched fall prevention intervention and we now know that 8-12 weeks of a multi-component exercise intervention can reduce both the risk of falling and the rate of falls.
To be effective programmes need to incorporate exercise that targets strength, balance, posture, gait, functional tasks, flexibility and endurance. Programmes that focus solely on strength training or walking have been less effective.
Balance exercises can be performed quite simply at home; take a look at the CSP’s falls prevention video on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8s-8KtfgFM) – six simple exercises that have been proven to reduce risk. Falling is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Please get in touch if you want further help to prevent falls.
Rachel Garrod PhD MSc is a physiotherapy lecturer and stop smoking counsellor
Tel. (+34) 652 281 122
Guest blogger: www.marbellaazul.com