Falls – it feels like they’re rarely spoken about, given the severe impact they can have on a person’s health, confidence on their feet, and ability to stay mobile, independent and living on their own. Australian statistics show that:
- More than one in three older Australians have had at least one fall in the past 12 months
- Of those that had a fall, one in five were hospitalised
- One in two hospitalisations occurred on a single-surface level (not stairs)
- One in two falls occur during the day mostly due to ‘slipping, tripping and stumbling’
- 42% of hospitalised injuries are from falls
- 40% of injury deaths are from falls
- 95% of falls deaths are from those aged over 65 years
These are staggering statistics – and a key point for us as podiatrists is that there’s a lot that can be done to prevent falls or minimise their risks. Today, we’re turning our focus onto helping our Wollondilly community understand and prevent falls, while keeping you moving confidently on your feet for the years to come.
First Thing’s First: Why Do Falls Occur?
Falls can either be caused by things in your environment or things related to your body. Looking at your environment, or things outside of the functioning of your body, it may be the type of flooring you have, the uneven ground around your home or garden, the lighting in your home, the shoes you’re wearing, the medications you’re taking, cords or cables across the floor – you name it.
Looking at personal factors related to your body, this is often linked to the changes our bodies experience with ageing, which can cause us to have slower reaction times, eyesight problems, muscle weakness or loss of muscle control, coordination and balance problems and much more. It may also be due to new medical conditions, changes in the way we walk in response to pain or injury – and much more.
Here at Cartwright Podiatry, the most common reasons we see for falls combine both environmental and personal factors. Examples include a new medication making you feel off and affecting your mental state, tripping over something in the house you would have otherwise noticed if you had full mental clarity, and slower reaction times and muscle weakness making you unable to catch and correct yourself.
Are Children At Risk?
We often talk about falls in older adults because of the high number of falls sustained in this age group every year – but kids fall too, although for different reasons. Their bones and muscles are growing and developing, their balance and coordination have not fully matured which makes them susceptible to trips and falls, they progress through a range of developmental changes like in-toeing or knock knees, and their motor skills are still being fine-tuned. Here’s an insight into the rate of hospitalisations from falls by age group from Australian data in the 2017-2018 year period.
The risk may be lower for kids, but every fall is still very important. Aside from causing pain and frustration, it may also impact a child’s social confidence, limit activity participation, and lead to growth-related developmental problems depending on what injury was sustained in the fall. This is why our podiatry team works extensively with children to help them prevent falls and the resulting injuries, while encouraging healthy growth and development.
Had A Fall? Your Risk For Another Fall Is Now Higher
If you’ve had a fall, regardless of how severe it was, the chance of it happening again is increased. We highly recommend booking in with your podiatrist if you have had a fall, if you believe you may be at risk, or if you’re aged over 65 years. Podiatry care has been proven in studies to significantly help prevent falls – and we see it every week in our clinic.
How Can Podiatrists Help With Falls Prevention?
We start with a comprehensive assessment to understand your personal circumstances, your risks, and what your goals are for the long term. We’ll check your gait, how your muscles are working, your foot and leg alignment, how your feet are moving in your shoes, and much more. The treatments we carry out follow best-practice medical guidelines and may include:
- Changing your footwear – to ensure you’re in shoes that promote your stability, optimise the way your feet and legs function, don’t weigh your feet down with heavy materials leading to an excessive shoe weight and more. We’ll help you get the most comfortable pair for both inside and outside the home. Given that many falls happen inside the home, it’s important to stay supported at all times.
- Using custom foot orthotics – to help optimise your stability, assist your foot function and healthy movement, and offload any painful or stiff joints to help keep you comfortable and walking normally. At Cartwright Podiatry we’re proud to have our own orthotics mill, so we can design and create your orthotics perfectly for your feet
- Using wearable supports like braces or splints to help add stability to your feet, ankles or knees
- Creating rehab programs that help with balance and muscle weakness to best support your feet and legs. We understand this isn’t suitable for everyone and always work to help you meet your individual goals
- Working with other allied health professionals like occupational therapists to help you stay fall-free
Kids fall prevention is approached slightly differently to adults, with a greater focus on correcting alignment and postural problems and actively helping any muscle tightness and weakness. The goal is to promote healthy development and help kids stay healthy, happy and active for the years to come.
Ready To Feel Confident On Your Feet Again?
We understand that feeling uncertain about your ability to walk around your home without falling is daunting and disheartening. We’d love to work with you to help restore that confidence and give you the peace of mind that you’re taking the best measures possible.