If you have a small child who has not yet learned to walk, yet you are worried about them falling over, what should you do to prevent them from falling over.
There are 2 options really:
- Don’t allow them to get up off the floor. If they’re always on the floor they can’t fall over.
- Encourage them to learn to walk, gradually increasing their sense of balance and strength as they do so.
I think you might agree that the first option really isn’t viable, so what we tend to do is let them get on with it. They want to do what those around them are doing, and through practice and sheer stubbornness, they end up walking like everyone else.
Change gears for a moment.
We now have someone who is elderly, is becoming immobile because of increasingly weak muscles. What do we do?
- Sit them in a cushy armchair which is hard to get out of, give them a cup of tea and horrendous day time tv.
- Get them to do a series of sit to stand exercises while holding onto a weight, progressive walking and encourage them to be mobile.
Now, I know this is a little simplistic. Kids bounce, old people tend to break.
People do what those around them do, so if there are lots of people sitting, hey presto, so do the new ones.
Not only that, but we appear to be inherently lazy. Any suggestion of exercise or of trying to get better at walking or balancing is generally met with derision or long-suffering annoyance as if to say why should I practice this? If I could do it, I would, it’s not like I chose to be incapable of movement.
Well, I’m afraid as a physio my job is to care, and to make people do things they don’t want to do. In terms of falls prevention there is no magic potion. There is no pill. There is no wand. The answer comes in making muscles stronger, and the only real and functional way to do that is to move your body, to challenge it and to practice that movement.
Without practice you forget. Muscles atrophy and falls become ever more likely.
It makes me really sad to see people lose their ability to move through laziness, through not believing they are responsible for their own health, and through general apathy.
Throw away your TV, its keeping you plugged into the sofa and its killing you day by day.