September is Fall Prevention Month

Published - Sep 03, 2020

September is Fall Prevention Month, and September 13 through 19, specifically, is Balance Awareness Week.

There are so many things, both big and small, that we can do to influence fall risk. I have been a physical therapist for 38 years, and for the last 23 years, I have been involved with treating people who have balance problems or dizziness. Now, I have a parent who is in their 80's, and has a balance problem. So, this subject is an important one to me.

There are all sorts of scary statistics on the resulting medical problems (i.e. concussions, broken hips, fractured shoulders, etc.) that arise when a person is injured due to a fall. These injuries result in time away from home and family, due to hospitalization and stays at rehab facilities, and usually in loss of function.

Many things affect the risk of having a fall, such as moving to a new residence, having a pet in your home, diminished vision or hearing, a chronic disease (i.e. diabetes, Parkinson’s, etc.), orthopedic problems, and using certain medications. The people most likely to fall are those that have multiple risk factors (having a painful joint, taking pain relieving medication, which can cause dizziness as a side effect, and having a dog, for example). In fact, having a fall, and then being fearful of having another fall, actually increases your chances of falling again!

While most of us think of the elderly as the main group at risk for falls, people of any age can have a vestibular problem that can result in a higher risk of falling. Vestibular (inner ear) problems create dizziness, which can result in imbalance, nausea, a spinning sensation, headaches, neck pain, difficulty concentrating and other symptoms. According to the Vestibular Disorder Association, 69 million Americans have been diagnosed with a vestibular illness.

Thankfully, there are many resources available for an individuals interested in fall prevention. The Washington Department of Health prints a booklet entitled “Stay Active and Independent for Life,” geared towards individuals over 65 years of age. The VeDA organization is also a reliable source of information regarding fall risk reduction, and for learning more about vestibular diagnoses, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (the most common form of dizziness), migraine associated vertigo, Meniere’s disease and other vestibular problems. The VeDA organization website can be accessed at here.

If you don’t have access to a computer or smart phone, and wish to obtain the information noted above, I would be happy to assist you. If you are having dizziness or feeling unsteady, please consult with your health care provider for assistance. If you encounter resistance (i.e. you are told that it is normal for you to feel unsteady because you are getting older), we also have free injury screens available - this will allow you and I to chat, and for me to give your health care provider objective information as to why you may be appropriate for physical therapy. There are ways to reduce fall risk, and methods to treat many vestibular problems, available from a physical therapist trained in treating these problems.

Written by: 

Teri Low-McGavin, PT

Murphy’s Corner Physical Therapy