As the group stood around the table, and I described the potential of high compliance with the exercises, one of the participants lost her balance. She took multiple steps backwards, legs and body rigid, arms outstretched, flailing frantically to catch her balance. I ran to stabilize her, but didn’t get to her in time. She fell backwards and hit her head. I was surprised she lost her balance. She showed good balance and confidence with all the exercises.
We use three main mechanisms to maintain balance - vision, proprioception (touch), and vestibular. As one component of our balance system deteriorates, we compensate with other components. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy, shown to be highly effective, facilitates this compensation. However, balance improvements take time, at least three to six months or even more. Also, immediately after starting balance exercises, more falls occur as people feel more confident and move around more. Keep safety foremost as you increase mobility.
Falling safely is an important component of fall management. As young kids, we fall often, easily, and without embarrassment. As we age, we fear falling, and fight the fall. A few tips on falling:
Relax your body: If you lose your balance and can’t stabilize, don’t fight the fall. Relax your body by bending your knees, your trunk, and your elbows.
Protect your head: Tuck your chin. If falling forward, turn your head to the side, bend elbows, and put forearms in front of your face (palms of hands facing the ground).
Get closer to the ground : Bend the knees. Falls a further distance from the ground cause more injury.
Cushion the fall: Try to fall on the meaty parts of your body such as your buttocks.
Fall and roll: Once you touch the ground roll to spread the impact.