According to the National Council on Aging, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.”
But those over 65 are not the only people who should be concerned with fall risk. A study including “105 people ages 18-80 tested their vestibular threshold (the smallest amount of motion their body could detect), the lower the threshold the better their vestibular system was functioning and the lower their fall risk. The researchers found that the vestibular threshold in the people studied was increasingly higher after the age of 40. These thresholds increased up to 83 percent per decade after that age, the researchers said.”
The fear of falling tends to be preceded by slow worsening of balance but tends to be followed by decreasing activity levels which in turn limit an individual’s ability to care for self and household, increases risk of injury and illness, and can lead to depression and anxiety related to movement.
Balance is your body’s ability to maintain stable and upright positioning in standing, walking and sitting but it is multifactorial and therefore treatment of dysfunction can be challenging so it is important a complete evaluation is conducted. Impairments in your balance can be caused by any combination of dysfunction within the four systems that make it up:
- Muscular Strength + Coordination
- Proprioception (body awareness of where you are in space)
There are two types of balance, static and dynamic, and it is important during your evaluation to determine what activities you are having difficulty with. Static balance can be sitting, standing and single task management while dynamic can include initiating movements, walking, transitioning and performing more than one task at a time.
After a thorough evaluation of the history of your condition and the four systems of balance through objective measures, your doctor of physical therapy at ProFysio Physical Therapy will create a customized plan of care to improve range of motion, strength, coordination of musculature, static/dynamic balance limitations, and/or visual and vestibular strengthening to thereby improve your quality of life and reduce your fall risk.