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Falling - The Usual Suspects

What is causing me to fall? 

The most common question asked.  Well, that’s not always an easy answer, but I’ll address the basics.  Generally there is an impairment or limitation in one of three systems in our body.  

These systems include the following:

1.) Vision: Although this system is pretty simple to comprehend, it’s extremely important for balance. The input we receive from our visual field provides critical information as to how to react to our environment to prevent a fall and maintain normal gait or walking.

2.) Vestibular (“Inner Ear”): Most of us have been on rides at amusement parks and had that feeling like the world keeps spinning after the “tea cups” ride is over.  That spinning sensation happens to individuals even if they haven’t been on these rides and this is due to a deficit in the vestibular system.  These symptoms of dizziness or vertigo cause many falls due to the inability to correct balance when the world keeps spinning.

3.) Somatosensory:  Have you ever sat for too long in the car or on your couch and stood up and couldn’t feel your leg or foot.  It’s pretty hard to balance when you have these “pins and needles” or total numbness.  Unfortunately, some of us have neurological issues feeling the ground beneath our feet due to nerve damage or generalized progressed poor sensation.  Well somatosensory is the system that provides input regarding the ground beneath us and how to respond to the changes in the ground to reduce our risk of falls.  

We are usually able to compensate to a degree when there is a deficit or change in one of these systems in the beginning stages.  However, if no intervention is given, as these changes progress, the risk of falling increases.  
Ok that’s enough of the medical mumbo jumbo. What are the everyday causes that everyone can relate to of why one falls?  

These are the most common causes I have seen from patients:
1.) Fear of falling  
2.) Previous falls
3.) Previous injuries from falls
4.) Uncommon environments
5.) Obstacles in home and in the community
6.) Side effects from medications
7.) Unstable blood pressure
8.) Lower extremity weakness
9.) Lower extremity pain.  

On the bright side, All of these common causes I have mentioned are modifiable and able to be treated with Physical Therapy Intervention.  

Too much info??? Don’t worry I will clarify and break this information down in coming posts.

Geoff

The Human Balance System. (2017). Retrieved 2017, from http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorder/human-balance-system

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