Physio: Using physical therapy to prevent falls

Improve your balance, how you walk and get in shape to prevent injuries from falls.

  • Aug. 2, 2015 4:00 p.m.

An area of concern that I often hear about while working with an older population is the fear of falling. It is also fairly common that I will assess and treat an injury that is the result of a fall. A fall may occur due to poor balance, an unsafe walking pattern or general deconditioning.

Many older people tell me that they simply avoid physical activity due to the fear of falling and the risk of an injury. The problem with this approach is that as we become less active we experience a gradual decline in muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. This gradual deconditioning puts us at a greater risk of suffering a fall. Also, as we become sedentary and weak, the recovery process if an injury does occur is often much slower than it would be for someone who is fit and active.

In the clinic we will look at functional measures including walking, standing on one foot and a sit to stand test to help us determine walking pattern, balance and lower extremity strength. While walking, we want to see that the leg swinging through is lifted high enough to fully clear the ground. A shuffle pattern can result in catching the toe quite easily. As well, since a large portion of walking is spent standing on one foot while the other leg is swinging through, we want to assess balance and stability on the stance leg.

To avoid tripping while walking, it is important to develop a safe walking pattern. The swing through leg should be lifted high enough to properly clear the ground. We also want to see a pattern of striking with the heel and pushing off the big toe with each step. If unsteadiness is noted while standing on one foot, a walking aid such as a cane or walker should probably be used while walking. A physiotherapist can adjust a walking aid and demonstrate how to use it correctly.

A cane or walker is especially important when walking outdoors where there are many obstacles including uneven ground, curbs and other potential tripping hazards. A walking aid should also be kept close to the bed in case it is needed when getting up during the night. A physiotherapist can teach safe and effective exercises to help improve walking pattern and endurance for those who feel weak or unsteady while walking.

It is also very important to stay active and keep moving. Daily physical activity is essential to maintain aerobic endurance, lower extremity strength and balance. It is never too late to start an exercise program. It is important to find an activity that is enjoyable to stay motivated to keep active. This may include walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, golfing, tennis, Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates. In addition to aerobic activity, a physiotherapist can design an appropriate home exercise program to help improve endurance, balance, coordination and strength.

 

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
UPDATE: West Kelowna fire crews rescue injured mountain biker

The injury took place at the top of Smith Creek Road

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read