Whether a result of aging, sedentary lifestyle, surgery, or injury, muscle weakness can contribute to other physiological issues and contribute to an increased risk of falls. According to the Center for Disease Control, one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. In fact, over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Many factors contribute to a higher likelihood of injury resulting from a fall. Vitamin D deficiency, vision problems, and improper footwear are just a few. But a major cause of falls is lower body and core weakness, which is where physical therapy can help significantly. Even if you’re currently feeling stable, the proper strengthening can improve your general health and safety.
Why is Physical Therapy Better Than the Gym?
The internet, magazines, and information at the doctor’s office are loaded with strength-training advice. However, each person has strengths and weaknesses that a physical therapist can help identify and target. For example, perhaps you didn’t know tightness in your calves is resulting in back pain or that a weak core is contributing to neck pain. Maybe large muscle groups are doing the work of smaller muscles or vice versa. Perhaps you are out of alignment or have one leg shorter than the other, resulting in issues with stability. With a basic exam, your PT can identify these opportunities for improved strength and mobility that will likely not improve by working out at the gym alone.
The strength of large and small muscle groups, especially stomach and other core muscles are at the ‘core’ of supporting your entire skeletal system. Ensuring your muscular system is strong and functioning properly will allow you to strengthen muscles you may not even have known were being ignored at the gym.
Your physical therapist can provide strengthening exercises specific to your needs and target weak areas. Then your PT will monitor your progress, supporting you along the way and supplying incrementally more challenging, yet targeted, exercises as your strength and stability increases.
In addition to strength, physical therapy increases flexibility, which in turn improves mobility. In short, when your body is more fluid you are better able to react to potential falls. Basic exercises will help lubricate sticky joints in order to maintain a stable stance even when turning or climbing a ladder.
Of course, balance is another key component to keeping you on your feet and protecting against falls. With the proper training, the increase in balance will create a strong and elastic foundation to help you land upright, cushion your fall without damage, or maintain a vertical stature even on uneven ground.
FearSometimes uncertainty is your own worst enemy. If fear of falling keeps you from participating in activities you love, physical therapy can give you the physical strength and the reassurance to overcome the anxiety holding you back. Approach your physical therapy with a goal in mind to help keep you motivated and allow your PT to work towards that goal with you. Whether it’s being able to bathe unaided or returning to the tennis court, your PT is knowledgeable about the steps required to get you from here to there.