Falls, which include slipping and tripping, are the single largest cause of injury in Switzerland across all age groups. Falls are most common in those over 65 years of age. Causes can range from poor vision and balance to certain types of medications or medical conditions. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation, and one of the top three leading causes of death by injury, in New Zealand.
Could you be at risk of falling?
- Have you had a fall in the last year?
- Are you taking four or more medications a day?
- Do you have Parkinson’s disease or a history of stroke?
- Do you feel you have any balance problems?
- Are you able to stand up from a chair without using your arms for support?
- Are you limiting what you do due to fear of falling?
How can physiotherapy help?
A physio will assess your risk of falling based on your health and will develop an activity programme just for you. This will include some exercises to strengthen your legs and improve your balance. They will also discuss options for being active in a way that suits you. Keeping on the move is really important.
Your physio can help with:
- Improving your balance and strength
- Education on how to reduce your risk of falling
- Designing an activity programme to suit your needs
- Advice on how to make your home safer
- Teaching you safe ways to get up if you do have a fall
- Showing you how to keep active
- Getting you involved in a community-based exercise programme
Some physios offer home visits and they can make sure your home is as safe as possible to reduce your risk of falling. This might include stronger lighting (especially from your bedroom to the bathroom at night) and removing rugs from bare floors because you can slip and fall. Physios can also advise you on suitable footwear and walking aids if you need them.
Exercise is really important for reducing the risk of falls. Lack of exercise leads to poor muscle tone, decreased strength and loss of bone mass – all of these factors can contribute to falls and the severity of injury after a fall. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the amount and type of exercise best for you.
How can I prevent falls?
As well as seeing a physio you can also:
- Exercise regularly – particularly exercises that focus on leg strength and improving your balance.
- Ask your doctor to check your medicines and see if any of them cause side effects such as dizziness.
- Have your eyes checked at least once a year.
- Make your home safer by identifying any hazards that you could trip over. You could also look at adding safety elements like non-slip mats and railings on stairways.
Does it really work?
Yes! Physiotherapy treatment is backed by scientific evidence. International and Switzerland based studies show that there are a number of treatments effective in reducing falls. These include group programmes like Tai Chi and home-based exercise programmes that can be designed by a physio. A physio can also advise you on ways to make your home safer, which has also been proven to reduce falls.