Your physical therapist can play a big role in helping you maintain or improve your balance as you age. Unfortunately, falls are becoming increasingly common in adults age 65 and over. Just because they’re common, doesn’t mean they’re inevitable though. Research shows that falls are caused by a variety of factors, and many of them can be improved. Let’s take a look at some of them and some tips to help you get back into balance. LOWER BODY WEAKNESS As we age, without resistance training we lose muscle mass every year. Weakness in your lower body has been shown to increase your fall risk. A physical therapist can design an exercise program to help you strengthen your legs and lower body safely.
INACTIVITY Another reason we lose muscle mass and our balance decreases is inactivity and deconditioning. People who have fallen in the past often have a fear of falling again, which leads them to do less. As their activity levels decrease, they get weaker and even more fearful of falling. This downward spiral can be stopped with balance training from a physical therapist to build your confidence on your feet and allow you to become more active. Group exercise classes are another great way to become more active, work on your balance and meet new friends at the same time. Ask your PT for recommendations for a class near you. VISION PROBLEMS Many people don’t realize that your body uses your vision for balance. If you want to prove this to yourself, try standing with your feet together with your eyes open, then compare that to doing it with your eyes closed. Visual problems can also make you miss things like bumps and changes in the surface you’re walking on, or objects that you could trip over. If you’re having problems with your vision, see your eye doctor for an exam and recommendations on what can be done. MEDICATIONS Certain medications can increase your risk of falling and impact your balance by making you sleepy, slowing your reactions, or causing weakness. Some examples of medications that can increase fall risk are certain types of antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and water pills. Your physical therapist can help you work with your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications and consider changes to improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling. When it comes to helping you improve your balance, and reduce your risk of falling, your physical therapist is an important part of the team. They can evaluate you to determine where your problem areas are, and design an individualized program for you. They can also refer you to other professionals who can help like your eye doctor and your pharmacist. If you’re starting to feel out of balance, your PT can help you stop falls before they start.