As we get older, we can become more at risk of falls due to reduced strength, balance and mobility. The NHS is currently prioritising this and we at Pure Physiotherapy are working closely with our NHS partners in designing programmes to help manage frailty and help to improve patients strength and mobility.
With the average age of the population increasing, it is important we keep this population group healthy and mobile. One of the biggest factors that can lead to falls it a reduction in lower limb strength which can have an adverse effect on reaction times, righting reactions and a person’s confidence. They are then more likely to avoid exercise and activity due to the fear of falling and as a result lose more strength.
There are several reasons for falls and they can be more common as we get older. The majority of falls do not cause any serious injury, but it is important that we do everything we can to try and prevent these from happening.
One of the major causes of falls as we get older is a reduction in strength in our lower limbs. This can cause our limbs to move slower if we need them to move quickly following a stumble or trip. This may result in a fall. Activities such as getting out of a chair or off the floor or climbing stairs can also get harder, again due to increasing weakness.
Another factor can be stiffness in your joints. Connected to your joints are tendons and ligaments and when these stretch and move they tell your joints and spinal cord where they are. This can then help your righting reactions but if these become stiff, they cannot pass these messages on, increasing the risk of you falling.
Your Physiotherapist will ask about the history of your falls and factors you may feel are linked to those issues. Our team at Pure Physiotherapy, will test you on a number of measures such as your walking speed, balance, lower and upper limb strength and flexibility to help identify areas that you can then improve. Your Physiotherapist will provide you with effective treatment and management strategies to address them and will work closely with you to create a series of goals personalised to what is important to you.
It is important as we get older that we continue to meet Public Health England guidelines of 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of higher intensity exercise. This should include 2 separate sessions of strength-based exercises. Your health practitioner will be able to answer any queries you may have about what exercise you are able to do. They may also suggest useful strategies to help you spread out your daily activities throughout the day to preserve energy levels and can recommend ways in which you may be able to navigate difficult scenarios such as climbing stairs and reaching in to the higher cupboards.
Our team at Pure Physiotherapy will design an exercise based programme for you to help address any issues that may be raised and help make sure you stay fit, active and mobile to reduce the chances of you having a fall. On our patient resources section of our website, we have created a recommended exercise programme. We advise consulting with your Physiotherapist prior to trying any of these exercises.
Age UK information on falls prevention – Click here
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (2013). Falls in older people: assessing risk and prevention. Clinical guideline [CG161]. Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg161. [Accessed 5/8/2020].
Vieira, E. R., Palmer, R. C., & Chaves, P. H. (2016). Prevention of falls in older people living in the community. BMJ, 353, i1419.
El-Khoury, F., Cassou, B., Charles, M. A., & Dargent-Molina, P. (2013). The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ, 347, f6234.