FALLS PREVENTION IN LATER LIFE

Over 65? Here’s how to ensure you add life to your years by reducing the risk of falls. In 2016, a study was published by the New Zealand college of Chiropractic research team which made a huge impact on chiropractic care worldwide. Dr. Kelly Holt led research investigating the effectiveness of chiropractic care in preventing falls in elderly. Dr, Holt was inspired to conduct this research after his grandmother had a fall, which resulted in significant loss of quality of life, and death within 9 months-still in hospital care.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults (aged 65 years+). The reason why older adults are more prone to falls than the rest of the population is due to many factors- eye sight loss, lower limb weakness, muscle loss, the list goes on. But a huge factor is the general deterioration of sensorimotor integration systems within the body (Holt, Haavik, Lee, Murphy & Elley, 2016).

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults.

(Holt, Haavik, Lee, Murphy & Elley, 2016)

Sensorimotor systems?

Sensorimotor function is basically the tissues in the body (particularly within joints) being able to “sense” that movement has or has not occurred, and report this information via the nervous system back to the brain. The brain is then able to gather this data it has received (multi-sensory integration), to gain a full understanding of where the body is in space.

When deterioration of these systems occurs, the brain doesn’t receive adequate or correct feedback, and the perception of the body in space can be wrong. This leads to incoordination, loss of balance and therefore an increased risk of falling.

So can Chiropractic care help me reduce my risk?

The study’s results were hugely positive. Over a 12 week period, the participants were adjusted an average of 20 times. The group who received the chiropractic care showed improved joint position sense in the ankles, and improved multi-sensory integration from sound and visual challenges. The chiropractic group also showed improved scores on the quality of life survey (Holt, Haavik, Lee, Murphy & Elley, 2016).

To support healthy ageing, what exercise best suits me?
Vic Health recommends that for older Victorians, physical activity reduces the risks or delays the progression of many chronic diseases. Exercise also improves mental wellbeing and can help older people stay independent  (health.vic, n.d.).

Physical activity guidelines suggest older people do 30 minutes of medium intensity exercise every day. Doing three lots of 10 minutes is fine, and may make it more manageable.

Older Victorians should vary their activities, and include exercises to improve: -Heart and lung fitness – water exercises, swimming, dancing, fast walking and cycling
-Muscle strength and bone density – lifting and carrying weights, climbing stairs, squats, side leg raises. Consider consulting with a physiotherapist or a personal trainer or a strength program.
-Balance – reaching to the front and to the side, balancing on one foot or toes with a chair nearby for support, tai chi classes.
-Flexibility – Iyengar yoga, or general stretching exercises. Iyengar yoga is great for older people because it uses props such as chairs, cushions and blocks, and improves core muscle function as well as flexibility.

Is there anything else I should do?

-Book yourself in for a spine and nervous system assessment if you are 65 years or over.

-Encourage your loved ones who are 65 years and older to see a chiropractor.

-Establish safety at home. Make sure hallways and walkways are clear of clutter especially at night. Turn the lights on if you are going to the bathroom in the night, especially if you are sleeping in a new home.

-Spend time outside daily for adequate vitamin D intake, or supplement vitamin D and Calcium.

References:

Holt, K., Haavik, H., Lee, A., Murphy, B., & Elley, C. (2016). Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care to Improve Sensorimotor Function Associated With Falls Risk in Older People: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal Of Manipulative And Physiological Therapeutics, 39(4), 267-278. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.02.003

health.vic. Active ageing. Melbourne: Victoria State Government.

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