Elderly Falls

Falling and its Affect on the Elderly

We have all fallen at some point in our lives, only to laugh it off so we save ourselves from the embarrassment that it may have caused. Looking back at the countless times that I have done this, due to repeatedly spraining my ankle, forced me to do something about it. The underlying condition that I had was a proprioceptive problem.

Almost half of elderly people ages 70 or older will fall at least once in their lives. This increases the chances of them dramatically causing damage to their bodies which then leads to weakness and fragility. We at least know of someone that has had to care for a friend or relative in this capacity. The emotional and financial cost can be overwhelming.

What Causes a Fall?

Although my problem was a proprioceptive condition, senior citizen falls can be correlated to the weakness in their big toe (flexor hallucis longus muscle). That’s right, the little piggy that went to market. Imagine yourself standing, arms to your side maintaining a straight alignment of your spine while you lean forward.

The first noticeable thing is that there is an increase in the amount of pressure pushing downward through your big toe to prevent you from falling forward. A third of the elderly population have a form of this weakness.

A way to measure the distance of a forward lean without falling is called the anterior fall envelope. This is done by the exercise mentioned earlier; the smaller the anterior fall envelope, the greater risk of falling. The most common causes of falls amongst the senior citizen population is from leaning forward while trying to reach for something and the start of walking forward.

elderly person using walker  to stand from hospital bed near window

How Can a Fall Be Prevented?

The good news is that there is a way to strengthen the toes and increase the anterior fall envelope. The Vele Forward Lean Maneuver is done by standing in front of a wall while maintaining a straight upright vertical posture. Leaning forward while staying in the aligned position and forcibly pushing the toes down towards the ground to slow the forward motion does this.

Holding this position for five to 10 seconds before going back to the starting upright posture can be done 15 to 20 times a day. Once mastered, the exercise can be modified by holding a bag with weight in it and switching hands while in the Vele Forward Lean Maneuver.

Over time, the flexor hallucis longus muscle will strengthen and allow more body weight to be transferred over the big toe. Dramatic increases of force generated through the big toe have been seen within just a few months.

To yours in better health!

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