Falls, which include slipping and tripping, are the single largest cause of injury for New Zealanders across all age groups. As you get older you have a greater risk of falling. Physiotherapy can help by providing exercises that will improve your strength and balance, reducing your chance of having a fall and enabling you to keep active.
Falls are most common in those over 65 years of age. Causes can range from poor vision and balance to certain types of medications or medical conditions. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation, and one of the top three leading causes of death by injury, in New Zealand.
Your physio can help with:
A physio will assess your risk of falling based on your health and will develop an activity programme just for you. This will include some exercises to strengthen your legs and improve your balance. They will also discuss options for being active in a way that suits you. Keeping on the move is really important.
Some physios offer home visits and they can make sure your home is as safe as possible to reduce your risk of falling. This might include stronger lighting (especially from your bedroom to the bathroom at night) and removing rugs from bare floors because you can slip and fall. Physios can also advise you on suitable footwear and walking aids if you need them.
Exercise is really important for reducing the risk of falls. Lack of exercise leads to poor muscle tone, decreased strength and loss of bone mass – all of these factors can contribute to falls and the severity of injury after a fall. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the amount and type of exercise best for you.
If you answered YES to three or more of the above questions then you are at high risk of falling and could benefit from the help of a physio. (adapted from the Falls Risk Assessment Tool, Nandy et al, 2004)
As well as seeing a physio you can also:
Yes! Physiotherapy treatment is backed by scientific evidence. International and New Zealand based studies show that there are a number of treatments effective in reducing falls. These include group programmes like Tai Chi and home-based exercise programmes that can be designed by a physio. A physio can also advise you on ways to make your home safer, which has also been proven to reduce falls.