Everyone has fallen at one point or another and been able to get right back up. So it may come as a surprise that falls are a growing and significant public health problem because they can cause injuries with long-lasting consequences — anything from knee damage and hip fractures to traumatic brain injury — especially as we get older.
Sound alarmist? Consider this: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Every second of every day an older adult (65+) suffers a fall in the U.S., making falls the leading cause of death and injury in this age group.”
And people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are especially at risk of falls because those conditions often lead to weakening of the muscles that assist with balance and stability, notes sports medicine consultant John Gallucci Jr., DPT, the CEO of JAG Physical Therapy in Bridgewater, New Jersey.
Also, having joint pain from arthritis may cause you to alter your gait to compensate. “The way you change your gait may cause you to lose your balance and fall,” says rheumatologist Sharon Kolasinski, MD, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. The fear of falling by itself can also increase your risk.
Exercises to Strengthen Key Muscles Can Help Prevent Falls
The good news is that several studies, including one review of studies, show that exercises that target balance, gait, and muscle strength help prevent falls in older people. While your personal fall prevention program should be tailored to your condition and your particular needs, one of the following fall prevention exercises is bound to work for you.