Risk Factors for Falls
An estimated one-third of adults age 65 and over fall every year. While some falls do not result in injury, a fall that does result in injury can lead to loss of independence and limiting of daily activities due to heightened fear of falling. This ultimately initiates an overall lower quality of life. Risk factors for falls include muscle weakness, problems with balance and gait, and a previous history of falls. Falling once unfortunately increases your risk of falling again.
A person with osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones, has an increased risk of falling and an even greater risk of bone fractures. Key joints most commonly affected include the spine, hip, and wrist. Bone fractures can cause serious disability and even death. Post-menopausal women are at higher risk for fracture due to hormonal changes that negatively affect bone health.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis:
- Female gender
- Caucasian or Asian race
- Thin and small body frames
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Hormonal changes, or low estrogen levels
- Poor nutrition, a diet low in calcium
- Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Lack of exercise
- Chronic diseases
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Certain medications
Fortunately, there are many modifiable factors that can reduce your risk including quitting smoking, maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and including weight-bearing exercise in your workout routine.
Management of Osteoporosis and Fall Risk
Is it possible to slow down the progression of osteoporosis and also reduce one’s risk for falls?
Absolutely! Load-bearing exercise or any type of exercise that places a load through the joints such as walking or strength-training with dumbbells is an appropriate way to slow the progression of osteoporosis, improve bone health, and subsequently reduce the risk for fracture.
Women should not be afraid to use dumbbells for strength training, as bones get stronger through remodeling, which requires loading to achieve. Gentle exercise including yoga and aquatic exercise does not achieve the same bone-strengthening benefits. We recommend you consult your physician before starting any new exercise programs.
If you are at increased risk for falls or have osteoporosis, how can physical therapy help?
At Excel Physical Therapy, our physical therapists spend ample one-on-one time with each patient to implement an individualized plan of care to address strength and balance impairments.
Treatment may include strength and balance training, postural education to promote spine health, and recommended environmental and lifestyle modifications to reduce fall risk and protect bone health. This individualized treatment approach will reduce fall risk and improve overall bone strength. The physical therapist will help you achieve your goals and equip you with a home exercise program that will be customized to your specific needs.
By: Alexis Del Palazzo, PT, DPT, Staff Physical Therapist at Excel Physical Therapy – Kennett Square