Falls Prevention and Physical Therapy: What You Need to Know

Have you or someone you know had a fall that caused injury? Perhaps your elderly parents or another loved one seems to be at risk for falls.

The good news: Licensed physical therapists are experts at identifying and helping to reduce the risk of falling among older adults by creating an individualized program for each person.

Did you know?

    • Falls are the no. 1 reason why older individuals lose their independence!
    • One-third of adults over the age of 65 fall each year – and less than half of these people tell anyone about it.
    • Every 29 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall
    • One out of 5 falls cause serious injury (fracture/head trauma)
    • Direct medical costs for injuries related to falls is over $28 billion annually.


Risk Factors

Most falls occur due to a combination of risk factors, and a risk for falling increases with each fall. But the overall risk can be reduced; it just requires a level of awareness and some extra planning.

Risk factors are categorized as extrinsic (environmental factors) and intrinsic (those that relate specifically to the individual).

Intrinsic risk factors may include:

  • Advanced age
  • History of falls
  • Weakness in the lower body
  • Gait abnormalities/difficulties
  • Generalized muscle weakness
  • Vision deficits
  • Postural blood pressure changes with position changes (postural hypotension)
  • Balance deficits
  • Conditions such as: stroke, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, incontinence (in a hurry to get to the bathroom), dementia
  • A person’s fear of falling actually increases the risk
  • Depression

Extrinsic risk factors may include:

  • Home environment: stairs, lack of grab bars in the bathroom, throw rugs, pets, dim lighting
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Polypharmacy: the more medications you take daily, the more likely your risk of falling. Certain types of medications create more risk than others (psychoactive medications such as benzodiazepines, “sedatives,” and sedating medications such as Tylenol PM, Benadryl, and any medications having anticholinergic side effects, including blurred vision)
  • Improper use of an assistive device or improper device for level of weakness/function

What can you do to reduce your risk?

  • Begin an individualized exercise program designed by a physical therapist to improve your strength and balance
  • Review your entire medication list with your physician or pharmacist
  • Have an annual eye examination and update your eyewear
  • Reduce extrinsic risk factors at home: remove tripping hazards such as clutter or throw rugs, put railings or grab bars on all stairs and in bathrooms, improve lighting in all rooms

Sports PT is committed to reducing falls in the community, and we’re proud to participate in Falls Prevention Day on Tuesday, September 23. Each Sports PT location is serving their community with a Falls Risk Assessment that week. For more information on Falls Risk Assessment in your area, please contact us at info@sptny.com.

Resources: www.cdc.gov/injury/STEADI