Falls happen, and just about anyone can experience a fall at any time from a number of different possible causes. But for older adults, they are a much more regular occurrence, as the number of falls and severity of resulting injuries both increase with age. Sadly, this leads many in the older population to dwell on a fear of falling.
Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for adults 65 years and older, as one out of every three of them will fall each year. These falls can lead to a variety of injuries, including fractures of the spine, pelvis, forearm or hip, as well as head injuries. In fact, more than 90% of all hip fractures are caused by falls.
The worst part may be that there is a dangerous pattern to this process. It begins with fear of falling, which may in turn lead to a fall itself. The fall will cause an injury, which will then lead to a recovery process that leaves the individual with more disability, reliance on others and an even greater fear of falling.
To stop this vicious cycle and address this major problem, preventing falls from occurring in the first place is essential. There are a number of important components to preventing falls in the elderly—including home modifications, wearing proper footwear, regular exercise and healthy diet and lifestyle choices—but in order to efficiently prevent falls, the most at-risk people must be identified.
The strength of the hip extension—which includes muscles in the thighs and buttocks and is involved in balance and walking—is considered a good predictor of fall risk. Weak hip extension strength usually means a higher risk of falling, but the good news is strengthening these muscles will dramatically reduce fall risk.
Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City recommends the following exercise, which should be performed under supervision the first time around for safety and to ensure it’s being done properly:
- Stand 12-18 inches away from a table or chair with feet slightly apart
- Bend forward at the hips at a 45 degree angle, hold table or chair for balance
- Slowly lift one leg straight backwards, without bending your knee, pointing your toes or bending your upper body any further forward
- Hold for one second, slowly lower the leg, pause, and repeat with the other leg until you’ve done 8-15 repetitions with each leg; repeat for one more set
- If you’re feeling comfortable enough, to take it up a notch, add a light 2-5 lb. weight to the ankles or use only one hand on the chair or table
- Other similar exercises include quadriceps hip extensions, lunges and squats
While this exercise will help get you started, please visit us at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City for additional guidance and other exercises that will help increase your hip extension strength and reduce your risk of falls in the process. Call 212-317-8303 for more information or to schedule an appointment.