The risk of sustaining an injury due to a fall increases with age. One-fourth of all falls will result in a serious injury. Research has shown that falls amongst the elderly are one of the most important risk factors that cause osteoporotic fractures. Falling also contributes to a decrease in self-confidence and an ability to maintain an optimal level of quality of life.
The causes of falls are due to many reasons, with a strong relationship between poor postural control, balance & gait disorders and ankle instability.
Dynamic Postural Control. Good posture happens when the muscles and joints of the body are properly aligned. When you are poorly aligned, the joints in your body (e.g., shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles) do not fit together well. This causes some muscles to become less efficient and work harder than others. Over time, those muscles become tense and overworked while
others weaken, creating muscular imbalances that slowly devolve into poor posture. Maintaining
a healthy back truly depends on how your hips and pelvis function together while establishing a strong, powerful and stable platform for the spine.
Balance. Balance is a complex automatic integration of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems and the communication pathways between them. This neural integration allows our bodies to move and respond to different surfaces and situations. With age and inactivity these unconscious processes may not integrate as well or as quickly as they did when we were younger. The ability to maintain balance and prevent injurious falls can become problems that require an ever-increasing and fatiguing need to focus.
Functional Exercise. Functional exercises are meaningful, task-oriented exercises that focus on replicating movement used during everyday life activities. Functional exercises emphasize the body’s natural ability to move in many different directions simultaneously. They train and develop the upper and lower body as well as the core at the same time. For example, a squat to a bicep curl is a functional exercise as it trains the same muscles required to pick up an object off of the floor without injury. Functional training, if performed correctly, will lead to better joint mobility and stability, as well as more efficient movement and coordination.
Improve Your Gait. How you stand affects how you move. Poor posture often develops so gradually that you may not notice its symptoms such as back, shoulder and neck pain, tight chest muscles and muscle stiffness. At the same time, the back of your calves, Achilles tendons and hamstrings become tight. As your shoulders become more rounded, your center of gravity shifts causing you to become less steady on your feet and leading towards a greater tendency of falling.
Ankle Stability. Ankle stability is perhaps the most overlooked part of good posture and preventing falls. There is a complex relationship between the ankle joint, the knees and the hips that allows our bodies to sway or react to loss of balance in the forward direction. This neuromuscular synergy is key in our ability to react to changes and recovering our balance. Ankle stability is the key to dynamic balance and good postural control.