The last few months I have seen a rise in clients in my clinic after they have fallen. In some cases they have fractured bones and even sustained concussion. In ALL these incidents I have made sure that they have been checked out medically before treating them.
The majority of these cases have been amongst the older generation. As we get older, we are much more prone to falling and the danger and risks are greater. Fractures due to falls often can lead to a loss of independence and increased care needs. My Mum, aged 76 was one of these cases; she fractured 7 ribs from a minor fall and in her case developed pneumonia.
“Accidents happen. Our bones shatter, our skin splits, our hearts break. We burn, we drown, we stay alive.” ― Moïra Fowley-Doyle,
A large number of these falls are preventable and there are actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling. Some of these actions are set below.
If the weather is warm, remember to stay well hydrated to reduce the risk of infection, illness and falls. Aim to drink 6/8 glasses of water a day unless you have been advised by your Doctor not to.
Strengthening muscles, and improving balance and coordination are some of the simplest and most effective things that one can do to help prevent falls. It’s surprisingly easy to improve your strength and balance with regular exercise at home. Below are some simple examples that one can do. If in doubt please check with your medical advisor.
Heel Raises Sitting
Sit upright on a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your legs up onto your toes. Hold, and gradually control the movement back down to the starting position. This is a useful calf pump exercise to improve circulation to your lower legs, as well as improving mobility of the ankle joints.
Sitting Sit upright with good posture. Slowly straighten your left leg out in front of you as far as feels comfortable. Slowly lower back to the floor, and then repeat with the right leg. You can also do bottom clenching exercises. As you sit there, tighten and release your bottom, to keep the gluteal (bottom) muscles awake.
The next few are slightly more advanced.
Single Leg Balance Standing with Support
Stand on one leg, and try to keep your balance. Be careful and hold on to a wall or table for support when you first start this exercise. A single leg balance exercise such as this is an enormously valuable exercise, and its benefits including strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the ankles and knees, and improving balance.
Calf Raises Standing Unsupported
Stand upright with good posture, next to a wall or table just in case you need support. Slowly raise up onto your toes, and control the movement back down. This exercise will strengthen the calf muscles and ankle joints.
Hip Flexion with Bent Knee Standing Unsupported
Stand upright with good posture. Stay close to a wall or table in case you need it. Put your weight through one leg and bend the other knee towards your chest. This exercise will mobilise your hip joint and strengthen the hip flexor muscles.
The above exercises are weight bearing which will help in protecting the bones from osteoporosis. If the weather is dry and sunny aim to go outdoors and get natural daylight as well as aiming to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D. These include spinach, kale, oily fish (salmon), cheese and eggs.
Ensure your house is well lit as poor lighting will increase the risk of falling over. Have your eyes regularly tested and make sure you can hear as having any issues/impairments will affect your balance.
Clothes such as trousers and gowns should be properly fitted and not trailing on the ground as this again increases the chances of falling especially on the stairs.
If you’re on medication that makes you drowsy or uncoordinated ask your GP to review it.
Lastly keep moving; mobility is the key to keep strong muscularly. My Mum was virtually bed bound for 3 weeks after her fall, and in that time she lost her confidence, her independence, her memory, had hallucinations and at times lost the will to live due to the horrendous pain that she was in from 7 fractured ribs that caused bleeding in the lungs. Her pneumonia made her very ill and put her in the Critical Care Unit of the local hospital. Her after care at home was essential in her recovery. My family and I implemented most of the above. She had her first McTimoney session last week, nearly 3 months after the fall; her posture and balance are dramatically improved. She understands the value of consistency and routine and has made the rehabilitation exercises a daily routine; this will pave the way forward in reducing her chances of falling again.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill