SARASOTA, Fla. -- According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one out of three adults age 65 or older suffer falls each year, resulting in more than 2 million non-fatal fall injuries annually treated in the ER.
Grace Hillenbrand’s doctor sent her for physical therapy. “I lose my balance, and I fell a couple of times.”
The cause of the balance problems must be identified before a customized program to keep Hillenbrand and others prone to falls safe, says physical therapist Laura Wazen of Equinox Physical Therapy. “Is it muscle weakness, is it in your ear problem, do they have visual problems, do they have sensation problems where they don’t feel the ground?”
The CDC reports falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults. “Typically we see slip and falls usually on slick floors, tripping over sidewalks, over parking lot bumpers,” says Dr. Joel Gerber at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
Any change in the health status of the elderly puts them at risk for a fall, says Dr. Gerber, but even the healthiest can suffer the occasional dizzy spell.
“All of a sudden I just got dizzy for about five seconds, you know, wobbly.” Bill Ivey of the Suncoast Youth Basketball League was playing tennis for more than an hour. The cause of his dizziness: heat and dehydration; but then a second incident. “I'm coming down the stairs and I get dizzy, and they rushed me to the hospital.”
Crystals in Ivey's ears caused this dizzy spell. But anything involving the inner ear may cause imbalance, says Dr. Jack Wazen of Florida Ear & Sinus. “The most common is called benign positional vertigo.”
Spinning, or positional maneuvers, is the most common and effective treatment for crystals. It takes only a few minutes and may help keep you out of the ER from common injuries resulting from falls.
“Hip fractures, head trauma, and the types of injuries can range from mild to bumps and bruises to significant breaks and bones or brain hemorages.”