September 9-15th is “Stay on Your Feet® week”, an initiative from the Western Australian Department of Health to inform and educate the community about how to best prevent falls. Here at Activate Physiotherapy we help many people to maintain their balance and prevent falls.
Falls are very common amongst the older population, and the risk of serious injury following a fall increases with age. In 2009 25% of older people reported having a fall in the previous 12 months. The risk of having a fall can be lowered by using some simple strategies and exercises.
What is Balance?
Our ability to balance is something we often take for granted, but it is a very complex process involving the coordination of many different systems in our bodies. The systems affecting our balance include the strength in our muscles, our vision, our vestibular system (our ‘sense’ of balance involving our inner ear) and feedback from muscles and ligaments in our body (proprioception). All of these systems can be affected as we get older and can lead to a decrease in balance.
What else can affect balance?
There are many things which can affect your balance and increase your risk of having a fall.
People who are at higher risk of having a fall include those who:
- are on many different medications: Some medications can interact, or affect your blood pressure. If you are on many medications it is a good idea to speak to your GP or pharmacist regarding if any of the medications you are taking can impact on your balance.
- Have multifocal lenses: Bifocal and multifocal lenses in glasses can increase your risk of a fall as it can interfere with depth perception. Speak to your optometrist about alternative options, and always be careful when wearing multifocals.
- Loss of sensation to your feet or legs: There are many causes of loss of sensation to our feet or legs. These can include poor circulation, diabetes and nerve problems. If you notice loss of sensation, speak to your GP.
- Older people who have recently been sick or hospitalised: Resting in bed whilst recovering from an illness or operation can make your muscles weaker, making it more likely that you may have a fall. It is important to do gentle exercise to strengthen your muscles following a period of rest.
- People who have blood pressure or heart problems: Many people with blood pressure and heart problems can suffer dizzy spells. It is best to consult your GP if you get dizzy spells.
What can I do to improve my balance?
There are many things we can do to improve on balance. Physiotherapist play an important role in maintaining and improving balance. Exercise is extremely important in maintaining our balance as it improves our muscle strength and the feedback we get from our muscles and ligaments. The best way to improve your balance is to practice it! There are also many strategies which can be put into place to combat individual risk factors that physiotherapists are able to suggest and help you with.
Here at Activate Physiotherapy we offer many services to improve on balance. We offer individual balance screening and assessments here at the clinic. We offer one on one services for an individual program to do both at the clinic and at home. We also have pilates and balance classes. Our balance classes are designed for the older population, or any individual concerned about their balance. In the class we have a range of strengthening and balance exercises all aimed at improving your balance!