Our “musculoskeletal” system is the bones, joints, and connective tissues in our bodies. It’s the framework to support our weight and maintain posture.
About age 30, our musculoskeletal system begins to change.
Bones become less dense and break more easily. Our overall height starts to decrease, and we can develop a stooped posture.
We can develop sarcopenia, or loss of muscle. This leads to a gradual loss of strength.
Losing strength in the muscle puts more strain on the joints and connective tissues. Joints become stiffer and less flexible.
These changes can increase the risk of falling, but this does not mean that falling is a normal part of aging. There are many ways to reduce your risk. In this article, we’ll talk about how to reduce the risk of falling due to changes in your bones, joints, and muscles.
Foot Issues and Falls
As we age, the skin on our feet gets more thin and dry. The tissue loses its ability to spring back (elasticity). Our feet can get flatter as the arch loses strength, while bones shift and move. Add daily wear and tear on your bones and joints, and these changes all lead to foot pain.
Foot pain can increase your risk of falling in several ways:
Walking and exercise can be painful. When you walk or exercise less, it leads to muscle weakness.
Foot pain can change your gait (the way you walk). This can change your posture and balance.
It can make it difficult to find comfortable shoes that protect your feet from injury.
Other diseases, like arthritis or diabetes, can increase foot pain and make healing difficult.
All of this can lead to a greater risk of falls.
To reduce your risk:
Check your feet for changes in nails, numbness, burning, or tingling.
Look for signs of injury, such as cuts or bruises that you don’t remember getting. This can be a sign you are losing feeling in your feet.
Don’t wear loose slippers or shoes without a sole. They may cause you to shuffle instead of letting the joints work as they should.
Wear shoes with non-skid soles in the house. If your feet are swollen, put the shoes on when you first wake up before they have a chance to swell.
See a podiatrist (foot specialist) at least once a year, or if you notice any changes in your feet.
Issues with Joints, Muscles, and Posture
As we age, our body changes in many ways. Our joints, muscle, and posture can change in the following ways:
Cartilage is a smooth, elastic tissue that protects the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint. This works as a shock absorber when you walk. It also gives your joints smooth movement. As we age, the cartilage becomes thinner. The connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) become more stiff and brittle. This changes your range of motion in your hips, knees, and other joints.
One in three adults age 60 and older suffer from “sarcopenia,” or severe muscle loss. This impacts the strength of your legs, hips, and core muscles. These muscles are vital in helping you walk with the right posture. Loss of muscle mass also makes it hard to catch yourself if you trip. Since your muscles help protect your bones, you may be more likely to break a bone when you fall if you have muscle loss.
Your body is designed to have your ears, shoulders, and hips in a straight line. This allows your spine to support your body correctly. Many people begin to stoop forward after years of injuries or poor posture. The head and neck lean forward out of alignment. This makes the muscles work harder to keep the body balanced. It can lead to instability and a higher risk of falls.
How Physical Therapy Can Reduce Your Fall Risk
Adding the right exercises to your routine can improve your balance, posture, and muscle strength. Home health physical therapists will help you develop a safe exercise program based on your overall health.
Some things to keep in mind as you do physical therapist-approved exercises are:
Whenever you are doing exercises, be sure to keep a sturdy chair, table, or kitchen counter within reach. Use it for support if you feel unsteady.
It is safest to do exercises when someone else is home in case you need help.
Stop your exercise and check with your doctor or home health therapist if you have unusual pain in your knees, back, or hips.
Also, stop if you feel dizzy, have chest pain, or feel short of breath.
How Home Health Address Changes to Your Bones, Joints, and Muscles
If you have arthritis, joint problems, or feel unsteady when you walk, home health may be able to help reduce your fall risk. Nurses can address medical issues that may cause dizziness or weakness. Physical Therapists can help with strengthening and flexibility. Occupational therapists can help you adapt your daily activities for safety.
To find out more information about how home health might help, please send us a message or call Sooner at (844) 301-4705. Our home health services are covered by original Medicare. We can also help you determine if your other insurance plan will cover home health with no out-of-pocket expense to you.