Penrose Physical Therapy
Mar 2019
Jennifer Penrose
Jennifer Penrose

A gentleman called the clinic the other day with growing concerns about his wife and asked us: “Why does my wife keep falling over?” He continued to tell us that his wife, Sally, 71, has good health, but she’s been having difficulty controlling her balance lately. With each fall she loses confidence – so much that she’s scared to leave the house without him, or their daughter.

Losing your balance is a scary thing. And it’s something we hear people worrying about all the time. It’s not uncommon that as we get older we begin to feel unsteady on our feet. People have told us that when they’re out doing their grocery shopping, they have to rely on the shopping cart. Other times they lean on a loved one to help them get around safely…

Fear of falling spoils their confidence to leave the house alone, or even move around the house independently. It’s a worrying thing that happens. Most of the time, people don’t understand why it’s happening to them all of a sudden. So why is it that falls are one of the main causes of accidents and injuries in people aged 65+? Here’s just some of the reasons why falling can become more of an issue as we get older…

Poor eyesight and difficulties with hearing properly are one of the most common changes that comes with ageing. Any issues with hearing and eyesight will make you feel unsteady. Let me explain… The inner ear has five, hair-like sensors that manage your balance – three that help you rotate and two that help you make up and down motions.

As we get older, these sensors begin to not work as well as they used to. They don’t send the right signals to your brain to help keep you on your feet. Same goes for the eyes. If you can’t see clearly, your brain will struggle to help keep you feeling centered. So deteriorating eyesight and hearing are big factors to why someone might begin to experience falls. 

Another big factor is weak, and inactive muscles. As we age, our muscles become weaker. That is, if we don’t do exercises and keep active to keep them strong. Weak muscles mean it becomes difficult to support the body and keep up right. This can lead to poor posture. If your body isn’t aligned properly, and your muscles can’t control your alignment, quick movements can throw you off balance.

Another big factor we see is medications messing with the body. Dizziness and loss of balance are sometimes included in that long list of side effects that come with medications. If your medication makes you drowsy, then your reaction time will be affected. This means you won’t be able to balance properly during sudden disturbances. If you’re on multiple medications and drowsiness is a side-effect, this could be the reason why you feel dizzy. You could get this feeling each time you get up, or find it difficult to stay steady on your feet.

Even your environment can have a big impact on how you move around day-to-day. It’s not uncommon that we’ve heard of people who have tripped over a rug, fallen when walking down or up the stairs, or even lost their balance when trying to get out the bath or car.

So if you have loose carpets, rugs that are easy to trip over, nothing to hold onto around the house – especially when using the stairs or no handle to hold onto when getting out of the bath or shower – changing a few things in your home could help you fall less often, and help you to feel more confident around your home.

Obviously I can’t put it down to ‘one’ thing without knowing more about you, how you’re struggling with keeping steady on your feet and your situation… But what I can tell you is if you find yourself worried about falling over, or you’ve noticed a loved one leaning over more than usual, it’s completely normal.

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