Falls are a serious problem in the elderly population. They can lead to fractures and other injuries, as well as contributing to a loss of independence, reduced participation in activities and reduced self-efficacy.
Falls are a leading cause of hospitalisations in the elderly, and where they cause serious injury such as hip fractures they can contribute to a speeding up of one's overall health deterioration.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of a loss of balance and falls as a normal part of ageing. But the truth is, while falls become more of an issue as you get older, balance is a skill which can be improved with targeted exercises.
What is Balance?
Balance refers to your ability to maintain a position with minimal swaying. Most important to falls prevention is your standing balance, that is your ability to maintain a standing posture without falling and with minimal postural sway.
Standing balance relies on input from three sensory systems:
Vestibular system (awareness of head position and movement using organs of the inner ear)
Joint position sense
A number of other factors can influence your standing balance, including:
Muscle strength and conditioning
Range of movement of various joints
Environmental factors such as harsh lighting, tripping hazards etc
A fear of falling
How Can Your Balance Be Improved?
Balance can be improved by concentrating on factors which are contributing to impaired balance. Vestibular awareness, joint position sense, muscle strength and range of movement can all be improved with specific exercises, while environmental factors and tripping hazards may be easily addressed.
Falls Prevention Programs
Our physiotherapists are able to assess your risk of falls through discussion with you, strength and range of movement testing, and the use of standardised tests such as the Berg Balance Assessment. From this assessment they are able to tailor a specific exercise and education program to your presentation, providing regular review to ensure you're seeing an improvement in your balance.