Falls are a genuine risk for any individual at any age. Generally, risk of falling increases as we get older due to diminished co-ordination, coupled with decrease in bone mineral density. However, for those suffering from chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, falls are a serious and possibly life threatening aspect of daily life.
Still, even the agile among us can take a bad fall. Falls can occur for a number of reasons that include slippery surfaces such as snow, ice, water, chemical spills, or uneven surfaces that can challenge one's sense of balance. Injury from falls can range from simple bumps or bruises to fracture of multiple bones.
Luckily, there are general strategies individuals can do to limit the risk of falls. This can begin at home by making your home as "fall proof" as possible. Removing loose floor rugs, installing rubber floor catchers in bathtubs and showers and placing hallway lights to illuminate walkways at night are all great starts. Hand railings along long hallways and in bedrooms and bathrooms are also a great option to provide support for those who find walking a challenge.
Motor control rehabilitation can aid patients with muscular or neurological disturbances that affect balance. Individuals should be evaluated by trained health care professionals before engaging in balance and coordination activities to ensure they are safe and under proper supervision.
The following exercises are not just for patients. Everyone can benefit from practicing them:
Proper squat mechanics is a good place to start for balance and fall prevention strategies. This functional motion activates many muscles and muscle groups of the lower body, including quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscular groups, and the abdominal muscles as well. Activating all of the muscles required for a proper squat can improves stability during a dynamic activity and can be recruited in fall risk settings.
For more advanced activities, individuals can begin to work on single-leg stance muscle building activities such as Bulgarian split squats, single-leg squats and hip hikes. These activities will build lower limb and pelvic muscles and encourage the development of muscle coordination.
The most advanced activities involve the use of unsteady surfaces. For example, rocker and wobble boards will really improve balance by forcing you to stabilize on an unstable surface.
Stability skills will challenge all who partake in them. Practice, patience and proper supervision and instruction are vital to develop them properly.
Drs. Marco and Paolo De Ciantis are Toronto-based chiropractic doctors and co-owners of Sports Specialist Rehab Centre. The identical twins specialize in pain and injury prevention, working with a range of patients from athletes looking to improve their performance to individuals who simply want day-to-day tasks to be easier, in an effort to restore optimal well-being.