As a child, falling is common and may even be entertaining. But, you soon come to realize that losing one’s balance can be hurtful and dangerous. Fortunately, when a youngster falls she is rarely seriously hurt and usually recovers rapidly. Unfortunately, as you age, the chances of a fall-rise, injuries increase, and the likelihood of a full recovery decrease, which is why maintaining balance is so important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries. One in five of these falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or head trauma. Falls are the leading cause of death in older Americans.
Regardless of your age, falling often results in strains, sprains, muscle pulls, bruises and discomfort. The results of an unbalanced moment affect your ability to work, exercise, play sports and enjoy your daily routines. Incidental or traumatic injuries can impact your mental and physical health, and your ability to live independently and take care of yourself.
Why You’re Out of Balance
There are several factors that can affect your balance. One is vertigo or the sense of “spinning” which may be linked to inner ear problems. Other factors can include lack of exercise, low blood pressure, headaches, infections, allergies, dehydration, medications and nerve issues in the feet or legs. In addition, older people may exhibit poor balance as their muscle strength and joint flexibility diminish. Reduced vision and slower reaction times also increase the chances of stumbling. Of course, some diseases or illnesses such as Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy and arthritis can impede gait, balance, and steadiness.
Atlanta physical therapist, Keely Towson, MPT, CSCS, cert. DN, says. “As balance declines, patients become apprehensive and fearful which can affect their daily activities and health in general.” She adds that people who fear falling may be reluctant to leave their homes and may become more isolated. This lack of activity weakens muscles resulting in even more balance challenges and overall health decline.
How You Balance
Balance is complex. It involves muscle strength, joint mobility, flexibility, visual input, the inner ear and our proprioceptive system, which are receptors in joint, muscle, ligament and tendon nerves that orient a person in relation to other objects. This is all filtered in the sensory cortex of the brain—allowing you to balance when walking on uneven terrain and to do other activities, such as climbing steps, without thinking about it. As you age, these senses decline and your information processing slows.