Physical therapy isn’t just a way to recover from an injury or surgery. And it’s not just for professional athletes, either.
In the United States, one in four people over 65 falls every year, and falls are the No. 1 cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults. To stay fall-free, you need to protect your hearing — because you’re three times more likely to fall if you have mild hearing loss — and develop the strength and flexibility your body requires to maintain good balance.
At Advanced Medical Care in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, our experienced medical team recommends that older adults work with a physical therapist to build strength and flexibility so they’re stable enough to withstand falls.
Every year at least 32,000 older adults die as a result of a fall. Thousands of others suffer pain and disability due to falls. You can prevent falls in the future by working with a physical therapist now. Here’s how physical therapy keeps you on your feet… and out of the hospital.
Even though falls are common among older adults in the US, falling isn’t an inevitable part of aging. When older adults engage in physical exercise specifically designed to prevent falls, they experience only 1.4 falls per person-year, compared with 2.1 falls in those who don’t get fall-prevention training.
The National Council on Aging recommends that anyone who has fallen, or is at risk for a fall, receive specialized physical therapy (PT) for fall prevention. A physical therapist can also help identify issues that may contribute to a higher falling risk, such as poor hearing or eyesight, and refer you to specialists for care.
Your PT sessions start with an in-depth evaluation. Your therapist conducts a series of tests to assess your:
They then custom-design a program to help you gain greater strength, flexibility, and balance to reduce your risk for a fall.
A physical therapist works to strengthen your core, ankles, knees, and hips so you’re more likely to stay upright. When the muscles in your lower body and core are strong, you can better maintain balance even when confronted with uneven sidewalks, stairs, and other fall risks.
For instance, the evidence-based Otago Exercise Program (OEP) has been shown to reduce falls by 35%-40%. You start with four PT visits and then practice at home three times a week. Eventually, you move into a management phase that you maintain with regular check-ins.
Exercises that build strength to prevent falls include:
Based on your fitness level, your PT may also recommend that you work with weights or resistance bands. Resistance exercise also has been shown to have cognitive benefits.
When you’re both strong and flexible, you may be able to recover your balance even after a fall has started. Stretching helps keep your joints mobile and fluid and also protects your muscles, joints, and tendons. Some stretches that can help you stay flexible for quick recovery include:
Your physical therapist may also recommend you engage in exercise classes that put a premium on stretching, such as yoga.
In addition to helping you gain strength, flexibility, and endurance, PT can address specific problem areas for you and recommend treatments. To reduce muscle and tissue tightness and promote increased circulation, you could benefit from:
We may also recommend deep-tissue massage to release trigger points and tension and to promote overall relaxation.
Even if you’re not yet an older adult, consider adding PT into your regimen if you want to age well. By identifying your weaknesses and countering them with exercises customized for you, you can get stronger and build more endurance with a physical therapist than you could on your own.
To build your strength and learn to better maintain your balance in a safe and friendly environment, contact the physical therapy team at Advanced Medical Care today.