Falls can have painful, devastating impacts on people of all ages, including their ability to stay mobile, independent, and keep doing the things they love. At Sole Motion Podiatry, we help kids, adults and older adults prevent falls and reduce their risk of falls-related injuries like fractures, sprains and bruising both inside and outside of their homes by using simple yet effective podiatry techniques and devices. Today, our podiatrists have shared how we help with falls – and why this is so important.
We rely on our body to do so much for us almost effortlessly, so we often don’t think twice about relying on it to keep us from accidentally tripping or falling – until an accident occurs. It surprises many to learn that falls are Australia’s largest contributor to hospitalised injury cases and a leading cause of injury deaths. In 2017–18, 42% of hospitalised injury cases and 40% of injury deaths were due to falls.
The rate of falls in Australia is increasing every year. While those aged 65+ had the most falls, there were almost as many falls in toddlers aged 0-4 and kids aged 5-14 than in those aged 45-64 years – so everyone is at risk. The causes ranged from slipping, tripping and stumbling to those involving playground equipment to those involving steps or furniture in the home.
Simply put: falls are a real yet often under-recognised risk to the health of all members of a family, especially those aged 65+ due to 95% of falls deaths being in this age group. Falls can also be prevented, or the risk reduced, with the help of health professionals including podiatrists.
One of the keys to preventing falls at any age is understanding the factors that contribute to or cause a fall – both intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic factors are those occurring within a person’s body, often related to the ageing process. This includes changes in balance, coordination and walking, vision changes, muscle weakness, reduced reflexes, other existing injuries or problems, and medical conditions or diseases that may alter proprioception (the body’s ability to perceive its own position in space). As an example, muscle weakness in your feet and legs can increase your likelihood of having a fall by over four times.
Extrinsic factors are environmental factors that contribute to falls. This ranges from the lighting in your home to rugs that are tripping hazards to taking certain medications or multiple medications. For example, taking benzodiazepines is associated with an increase of as much as 44% in the risk of hip fracture and night falls in older adults. A big extrinsic factor our podiatrists see is improper fitting, heavy or unsupportive footwear.
It is often the combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that lead to a fall – like tripping over that rug as you couldn’t see it well because of vision changes paired with lower lighting, and then didn’t have the reflexes or strength to be able to catch yourself before falling.
In children, it often isn’t the loss of an attribute that contributes to falls – like muscle weakening or balance worsening, but that these attributes haven’t fully developed yet as they are still very much growing.
The good news is that it is very much possible to prevent falls, or at least lower the risk of falling significantly, in both children and adults.
Going back to the intrinsic and extrinsic factors we talked about, the good news is that many of these can be improved with the right care, attention, training and modifications. Strength can be regained, gait and balance can be improved, and confidence on your feet can be restored. Tripping hazards can be removed, better lights installed, extra handlebars fitted, and better shoes purchased.
Studies have concluded that effective falls prevention in older adults needs three key elements: exercise, education and home or environmental modifications. Here at Sole Motion, our podiatrists work with those worried about falls, or that have had a previous fall, to reduce their falls risk by:
As they’re still growing, changing and developing all their senses, kids have other considerations for falls like the (temporary) presence of in-toeing, knock knees, immature fine motor skills, developing balance and more. For kids that are prone to tripping and falling, we always start by performing a comprehensive assessment to understand what is causing their falls and why. We then make a plan, together with parents, of the best ways to help that child stop and prevent falls. Our goal with kids is to help them walk strongly and confidently for all the years to come, keeping them healthy, happy and active.
Podiatry care is proven to help prevent falls – and this is something we are passionate about at Sole Motion because of the large impact it can have on the lives of both the person at risk of falling and of their families and loved ones.
We understand that it’s not just a physical injury we’re preventing – but the impact on a person’s confidence, independence, social interactions and quality of life – at every age.