Falling is one of the most common accidents that lead to injury and back pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of seniors over the age of 65 fall every year. And to make matters worse, once you’ve had a fall, you’re twice as likely to experience another.
Many of those falls, however, are preventable. Taking a few simple precautions and recommendations from your back specialists at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) can make a difference and keep you from becoming just another statistic.
Fall Prevention Tips
Regular exercise that keeps your core and leg muscles strong goes a long way toward preventing falls. Include balance training in your workout routines to further decrease your chances of falling. If you have a bad back or have recently had spinal surgery, falling can seriously compromise your recovery and cause additional damage to your spine.
Take an inventory of your home and pay close attention to where you step. Consider these 10 easy ways to prevent falls around your home, office and public spaces:
1. Clean up the clutter.
Remove hazardous items like electrical cords, shoes and even rugs to prevent falls. If you live with others, ask that they keep the common areas tidy, especially in basements, near doorways and steps, and in walkways.
2. Avoid loose clothing.
Long skirts or baggy pants may seem more comfortable, but can also be tripping hazards. Instead, wear fitted and hemmed clothing.
3. Use non-slip mats in the shower or bathtub.
Slippery, wet environments are especially dangerous. Non-slip mats are an inexpensive and easy way to avoid falling while bathing. Place the mats both inside and outside your bathtub to prevent falls when entering and exiting the shower.
4. Install handrails and grab bars.
Ask a family member or handyman to install handrails in easy-to-fall areas, like near the toilet or shower. It’s also best to install handrails on both sides of all staircases in your home. In public, always take advantage of handrails.
5. Wear non-slip shoes.
Wear non-slip footwear to prevent falls while walking. While socks or slippers are comfortable, they lack appropriate gripping mechanisms and can increase the risk of falling. Instead, wear comfortable tennis shoes with good arch and back support to prevent falls. Beware of slip-ons that slip off just as easily.
6. Get proper treatment.
The risk of falling increases when you take certain medications and when you suffer from other medical conditions. For example, urinary incontinence, depression, arthritis, diabetes and undertreated pain all put you at greater risk of falling. Ask your doctor about your medication.
7. Properly light all areas.
It’s easier to trip over objects when you can’t see them. Make sure all staircases, especially outdoor or basement staircases, are properly lit. Don’t enter a room until you’ve turned on the light. Use the flashlight on your phone if a public area where you must walk isn’t well-lit.
8. Work out appropriately.
Decreased muscle strength increases the likelihood of falling. If you’ve recently had back or spine surgery, ask your doctor which exercises, if any, are appropriate while you heal. Walking and strength training are two kinds of exercises that can help build the muscles used for balance and stability. Your SSI physical therapist has a slew of great exercises to increase your mobility strength before you suffer a fall or after back surgery.
9. Limit alcohol consumption.
If you’ve recently had spinal surgery, you may already be avoiding alcohol. Alcohol interferes with your sense of balance and impairs your reflexes. Know your limits and avoid drinking too much alcohol. Better yet, stay away from it completely until your spine has healed.
10. Stand up slowly.
Standing too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop, making you feel lightheaded or dizzy, which increases your likelihood of falling. Stand up slowly and use both hands to balance yourself.
If you’re worried about falling, speak with your doctor at SSI. Don’t take chances with your back or your health. Prevention goes a long way to keep you and your back safe and injury-free.