Balance – Fall Prevention What Does It Mean and What Can Be Done About It? – Matthew Clark, Horizon Rehabilitation, Hilton Head Island
By: Matt Clark MSPT, MBA, ATC
Maintaining balance is the result of a complex interaction of many systems in the human body. With aging, changes occur that reduce how efficient these systems work. Many identifying risk factors for falling can be, but are not limited to, balance/gait problems, prior falls, vision, limited ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), depression/dementia and medications. But, intervention programs work! Evidence shows 20 percent to 75 percent lower fall rates with a systematic program of evaluation, exercise and environment.
Balance is so complex; an exercise program can reduce the risk of falls. Exercise performed at a moderate intensity or progressing from low to moderate intensity two to three times a week is recommended.
Muscle groups that can affect function:
- Tight hip flexors (occur when sitting too long) can be stretched to help alleviate low back pain.
- Tight hamstring muscles can also lead to low back pain, so strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings will help.
- Tight calf muscles can cause knees to internally rotate; stretching will improve balance.
Muscle imbalance occurs when muscles on one side of the joint are string and tight, and the opposing muscles on the other side are weak. Muscle imbalances can be corrected with strength training. Stretch short, tight muscles, strengthen the weak muscles and continue to train both muscles equally. Other muscles affected include weak abdominals, gluteus medius and maximus, tight pectoralis muscles, tight lumbar spine, etc.
Physical action and thought assists in balance:
- Review your medications with your pharmacist for possible interactions.
- Consider having your vision checked or your prescription updated.
- When getting up from a reclining position, count to five before getting up to avoid feeling light-headed and dizzy; take your time.
Keep in mind these are only a few exercises or considerations. Most exercises require supervision to avoid injury, especially if doing it for the first time. If you believe you balance is suspect or if you are at risk for falls, please contact our Balance and Fall Prevention Center at 671-7342.