Reducing Risks of Falling

By Martha Michael

Falling and Chiropractic

We learn as children that nursery rhymes, if taken too seriously, can be misleading. One that has slightly more accuracy, however, is “step on a crack, break your mama’s back.” The risk is right -- it just has the injured party wrong.

When it comes to your own safety, whether you’re on a sidewalk, asphalt or an area rug, whatever is the catalyst for a face plant is potentially hazardous and can take you out of the game. The National Floor Safety Institute, or NFSI, aims to reduce the number of individuals who slip, trip or fall, mostly through conducting research and developing flooring industry safety standards. The nonprofit organization also passes on as much information as possible to consumers.

According to the NFSI website, there are more than 8 million visits to hospital emergency rooms per year that are related to falling, which is 21.3 percent of ER visits. Every year, there are approximately 2.7 million injuries from falls due to flooring materials, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC.

More women are injured from falls, but men and women are equally likely to suffer a fatality from falling. And about 10 percent of workplace fatalities are due to falling, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Seniors

Slip-and-fall incidents cause more occupational injuries among employees age 55 and older, and they are the reason for most workers’ compensation claims.

Half of the deaths occurring at home are caused by falling, and 1 in 3 seniors aged 65 or older will fall over the course of a year. Also, 40 percent of admissions to nursing homes are due to falls, and every year, 60 percent of nursing home residents experience a fall.

More than 300,000 seniors end up in the hospital due to hip fractures, the CDC says, and nearly every hip fracture is caused by falling -- usually sideways.

Resulting Injury

About 20 percent of victims who fall will suffer a serious injury, including a broken bone or an injury to the head, according to the CDC report. Some of the frequently reported fractures occur in the wrists, arms, ankles and hips. Head injuries can be particularly severe if the person is taking medicines such as blood thinners.

Should you or another individual fall, getting immediate treatment is a must -- it’s not up for debate. Schedule an appointment with the chiropractor right away to make sure there’s no head or joint injury. You need an expert to do a complete workup in case there’s soft tissue damage or harm to your bone structure.

Another unfortunate result when someone has experienced a fall is they can become fearful of a repeat performance. “This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities,” the CDC article says. “When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.”

Fall Prevention

Researchers cite many risk factors, but if you take proper steps, you can prevent -- or at least limit -- the chance of a fall.

One of the most effective roles a chiropractor can play is to make you better prepared for unforeseen physical pitfalls when they happen. Regular chiropractic visits create a blueprint of your physical state, so joint restrictions (commonly called misalignments) and degenerative trends can be detected early. Your practitioner can also review your current lifestyle choices and reduce your risk factors, which may include:

  • Weak lower body
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Foot pain or improper footwear
  • Home hazards such as uneven steps or area rugs

Your chiropractor may recommend exercises to strengthen your lower extremities or suggest a discipline to build balance, such as tai chi. And you may end up making changes to your home furnishings to increase the safety of your environment.

Because accidents occur when you least expect them, you want to maximize your physical preparedness and make necessary changes to stay out of harm’s way. You don’t want a mishap to leave you in a situation like Humpty Dumpty’s. Picking up the pieces may be harder than you think.

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