According to Stats Canada, up to 20% of Canadians aged 65 and older have had a fall in the previous year. As you get older, many things about your body change. Typically, your eyesight declines, your muscular strength and endurance decreases, and your balance starts getting worse. Sometimes, these changes can contribute to a fall, which may or may not lead to another fall… which CAN cause significant injuries such as a fractured hip . Even worse, this can lead to a FEAR of falling and a subsequent decrease in activity level… which can, unfortunately, increase your risk of falling again! Does this sound like you, OR someone you know?
While I admit that there are many changes as you age that you can’t control, there are just as many changes that you CAN control. Working to improve your function as you age can increase your confidence at preventing falls.
Here are five tips to reduce your fall risk:
1. Strength training
This can start with something as simple as a sit to stand exercise. This is a great exercise that works similar muscles to a squat, including your quadriceps, and gluteal (bum) muscles. Start by doing 10 repetitions in a row, and take a break if you need to. Breathe throughout the exercise (don’t hold your breath!). You can use a chair with arms or a chair next to a counter if you need some extra balance support with this exercise.
2. Balance training
If you don’t use it, you lose it! Many of my clients stare at me like I’m crazy when I ask them to stand on one leg during their assessment. These same clients, after a few weeks of practicing their balance at home, can stand on one leg with relative ease. Many people will report that they “just have bad balance”. The great thing about balance is that you can easily improve with practice! Start by standing next to a counter with both hands resting lightly on the counter and lift one leg up. Progress by lifting 1 hand up off of the counter, and then your 2nd hand off of the counter. Try to balance for as long as you can! Work on it for 1-2 minutes at a time, taking breaks and touching your hands/ feet back down whenever needed.
Note: These example exercise training suggestions are targeted towards older adults who do not use a gait aid and are living at home (if you DO use a gait aid (ie. cane or a walker) or have a level of function that will not allow for the above exercises, or have pain during these exercises, you may require some modifications). Safety is the number one focus when starting any new exercise program, so use a spotter if needed when starting out with these exercises.
3. Get your eyes checked!
Make sure your eyeglass prescriptions are accurate, and that you WEAR your eyeglasses (they don’t help you see when they’re on your nightstand!). Your “balance system” uses many cues from the body, including your vision. If your vision has declined, there is poorer information for your brain and body to use to keep its balance.
4. Clean up your home environment!
Remove clutter from stairs or in walking areas. Consider the placement of tripping hazards, such as scatter mats. Ensuring good lighting (especially at night time) can also help create safe navigation in your home.
5. Add some helpful equipment (if needed)!
Install handrails on all indoor and outdoor stairs/steps and grab bars in the bathroom. Increasing your points of contact will improve your balance and decrease the chance that you will fall, whether on the stairs or in the bathroom. There are many assistive devices to make living at home easier and safer, depending on your function level. Using a gait aid, like a cane or a walker, may also be appropriate for some older adults that are having difficulty with their balance when standing and walking.
These are some very simple ways to start to decreasing an older adult’s fall risk. The best way to minimize an older adult’s fall risk is for a physiotherapist to assess their capabilities and limitations, in order to provide an individualized program for each person. One older adult can have a much different activity level or health history compared to another older adult of the same age.
Are you concerned about your risk of falling? Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to assess your level of function to determine the best treatment plan.
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy & Performance
As the technological world of laptops, cell phones, and tablets forces us to focus our attention downwards and inwards, many of us begin to feel achiness, pain, or stiffness in our necks, upper backs, or shoulders. Often, we adopt a common cell phone posture (see below), which can increase our risk of neck, back, or shoulder pain.
As you can see in the above picture, our preferred cell phone posture leads to increased neck flexion, increased upper back kyphosis (forward curve), and forward/rounded shoulders. When this causes pain, it has been dubbed “tech-neck” or “text-neck”.
Alternatively, we could adopt an improved posture:
The improved posture above encourages an upright torso, with a neutral spine and retracted (pulled down and back) shoulder blades.
For some, even obtaining the more upright, improved posture can be difficult. As a physiotherapist, I often hear that it’s too hard for people to keep their torso upright, with their shoulders down and back. In my opinion, most people feel this way because the upright posture is so different from what they’re used to. Further, the increased amount of time they spend in the poor posture causes their shoulder and scapula (shoulder blade) muscles to be on a constant stretch. The constant stretch leads to inhibition of these muscles, and apparent weakness. Therefore, people find it difficult to obtain an improved, upright posture because their muscles don’t have the capacity to maintain that position.
So How Do I Improve My Capacity To Obtain That Position?
Great question. A good place to start is to simply try and obtain that (improved) position as often as you remember. Set an alarm on your phone, add a post-it note to your computer, tell others to have you ‘sit up tall’ or ‘stand up tall’ - just be in the improved position more than you are now. Slowly it will feel less difficult.
Secondly, improve your capacity through exercise. This is the fun part! 17 muscles attach to the shoulder blade, cool right!?. Strengthening some of these scapular muscles can lead to improvements in your ability to maintain a good posture, as well as improvements in your pain and stiffness!
NOW FOR THE SCIENCE!!! This paper outlines the recommended exercises for each muscle [Aside: to the physiotherapists reading this-go read that paper]. Many of these recommendations are based on electromyographic (EMG) evidence. EMG is how we measure muscle activity. The higher the EMG measured in a muscle with a certain exercise, the higher the muscle activity with that exercise. So in theory, the higher the muscle activity, the higher the chances of good strength building!
So What Muscles Should I Build?
Another great question. I would recommend starting with your posterior rotator cuff muscles (infraspinatus and teres minor), the middle trapezius, and the lower trapezius. These muscles are responsible for drawing your shoulders/shoulder blades down and back and for controlling arm/shoulder movement (especially overhead!). Improving the activation/strength in these muscles will allow you to obtain the improved posture more easily! Spending more time in the improved posture will help your pain!
Here’s a table of the recommended exercises for activating each of those muscles (from the research paper mentioned above!):
Start by doing 2 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise 1-2 times a day. If that’s too hard, do fewer reps. If that’s too easy, do more reps. Find the numbers that make you tired, but not painful! If anything is painful or too difficult, consult a physiotherapist!
If your cell phone, laptop, or tablet is bringing you down, bring yourself back up! Consciously think about your posture, activate some muscles, and take care of yourself!
Do you suffer from TechNeck? Is obtaining a good posture difficult for you? Want to get out of pain, and back to function? At Strive Physiotherapy and Performance, we are committed to providing in-depth, one-on-one assessments and treatments to ensure a quick and comfortable recovery. Call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists today!
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance
Strive Physiotherapy & Performance
Follow us for great information, news, and adventures as we grow.