Slips and Falls
Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths and injuries among the elderly population of America? And according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), slips, trips, and falls make up the majority of workplace accidents. Those are some pretty harrowing facts. Elderly people aren’t the only ones at risk of falls, though. Anyone can suffer injury from a fall in their workplace, outside, or even in their own home. Injuries from a fall can be anywhere from as minor as scrapes on your hands and knees from catching yourself to as severe and costly as a broken hip. You can potentially suffer from a broken bone, a strain, a sprain, and/or a loss of quality of life from a slip or fall.
Slip and Fall in the Workplace
From a freshly mopped floor to loose power cords, there are plenty of things to slip or trip on in the workplace. Wearing non-slip shoes can minimize the dangers of slipping. Keeping the working area clean and organized can also cut down on the dangers of slipping or tripping. If tools are put away properly and cords are out of the way of walkways, then chances of tripping shrink. It’s important to always wear the proper safety gear and follow safety procedures in your workplace.
Slip and Fall in Wintry Weather
As the weather starts to get colder, conditions outside are getting a bit… slippery. It can be difficult to tell which surfaces are icy sometimes, so it’s best to exercise caution when going out in cold weather. Wear shoes that have a good grip on them and walk slowly. Pay attention to where you’re going to try to minimize any slips.
Slip and Fall at Home
Maybe your child left their toys in the living room and in your rush to leave for work in the morning your foot catches on it wrong and you fall. Maybe you are just having a hard time going down the stairs in your house now because it’s hard to judge the distance between each step. Like in the workplace, there are so many different reasons and ways you can slip or fall. Just keep your house clean and orderly to keep from tripping over things.
Avoiding these injuries in cases at work and for younger people often just come down to ensuring the environment is clear and safe, as well as being more observant. For the elderly, though, things get a bit more complicated. As you age, different motor functions get to be more difficult, and maintaining balance is sadly one of those. Luckily, balance is one of the easiest things to retrain in therapy, according to HealthCARE Express’ Director of Therapy, Ben Smith. Maintaining balance is one of the easiest ways to avoid different causes of slips and falls.
Physical therapy can not only help those that have suffered from a fall but can also try and help prevent falls from happening in the future. “Preventing a fall drastically increases the quality of life of patients,” Ben stated. To be able to avoid these falls, though, people need to be very aware of the systems in their body that controls their balance.
There are four systems that need to be in: the neuromuscular system, the visual system, the vestibular system, and the somatosensory system. Each of these plays key roles in how your body maintains its balance. Strength revolves mostly around your neuromuscular system which controls your reflexes and how your body processes outside stimuli. How your brain reacts to visual stimuli is also important to your balance. As you age, it becomes more and more difficult to differentiate color or surface changes in things around you. Your vestibular system works as if it were your body’s own personal level. If it feels like you are getting off balance, the vestibular system is what causes you to right yourself. Finally, your somatosensory system controls your awareness of yourself in the space around you. Luckily, all four of these things can be retrained in physical therapy through different exercises such as proprioception and balance exercises and exercises that train reflexes.
One of the most important things to know, though, is the proper way to catch yourself when you fall. Try not to catch yourself in a way that all force goes through your wrists. Try to brace yourself for a fall with your entire forearm, not just your hands. If falling sideways, try to cushion your fall with your arm so that you don’t injure your hips. Wrists and hips are quite fragile, and they are often the ones that are injured or broken in a fall. It’s also important to remember to keep your head tucked close to your body when you fall on your side or back, anything to avoid risking injury to your skull or brain. If falling forward, turn your head to the side to minimize the chance of hitting your nose or mouth on the ground.