Are walkers causing more seniors to fall; a new study suggests that walkers may be part of the problem of falls rather than the solution.
A fall for a senior citizen can be devastating, affecting their mobility with a broken limb or worse, a broken hip. For years, the idea for poor balance due to aging was simple; give them a walker, teach them how to use it and they are less likely to fall.
A new study suggests that the devices themselves may actually cause them to fall in certain situations. Sometimes, the walkers design itself causes them to lose balance, while other times, they are having balance problems because of a gait issue that has developed over the years which was never addressed properly with therapy or chiropractic methods.
Gait problems develop over time, usually due to problems in the core (mid section of the body not working properly) which results in a shorter gait, overall stiffness and a loss of balance. Most medical providers are more concerned with managing the risk of falling, instead of figuring out why the persons gait has become so compromised, which results in over and under striding in the lower body, a compensation of that gait in the upper body, and with a shorter stride and a malfunctioning core, the patient is likely to develop problems in the hip and knee joints, as well as secondary problems in the upper body as the core distorts.
Simply placing a device in front of them as we commonly associate with the elderly is a band aid, since it never addresses the reason for their problems in the first place. Gait issues in the elderly are common (ask any podiatrist) and simply having them do protocols to strengthen themselves in physical therapy may make them somewhat stronger, but unless the problems in the core are addressed properly, and the area becomes trainable (most often, the core is distorted, and exercise will likely make the problem worse, not better), the problem will continue to worsen.
Seeing a primary spine provider such as a chiropractor is likely the right first choice for whom to see when balance is a problem. Rarely is balance a problem that is neurological, however, if the problem continues, the brain will likely adapt in a bad way, and reinforce the gait problem we are trying to improve or resolve.
In seniors with gait related issues, it is common for them to be built asymmetrically, with one foot doing one thing and the other being built differently, which can have a very different affect on the opposite side of the body. If this is evaluated correctly at the time of the initial consultation, most balance problems can be significantly improved by gait training, foot orthotics and methods such as myofascial release treatment and spinal manipulation. Improving the function of the core is essential to success with gait retraining mechanisms, which can potentially eliminate the need for a walker altogether. Continued training can then affect the brain as it learns are more appropriate gait pattern when eventually will reduce balance problems and reduce falling risk. While this approach may seem unconventional, the reality is that the mainstream approach is putting a band aid on a growing problem that will likely worsen since the reason for the unsteadiness had never been addressed in the first place.
Unfortunately, many of these gait problems begin earlier in life and are missed, by handling problems such as knee or hip or foot pain as problems in the knee or hip or foot. More often than not, these are merely symptoms of a gait issue which if allowed to continue in their current state, are likely to cause other problems and affect the way you walk years later after those joints are irreparably damaged.
Check out the article on walkers here
Canes, walkers linked to higher risk of falls
Walkers and canes can be lifesavers for older people, but a new study highlights the downside of using them without training.
“A lot of older adults seem to struggle with their walking aids . . . they often drag along their walking aids like a burden with a difficult gait pattern as a result, possibly increasing the risk of falling,” said the study’s lead author, Tine Roman de Mettelinge of Ghent University in Belgium.
Older people need to be able to function independently, but gait problems can undermine that, even leading to nursing home admission, Roman de Mettelinge and her coauthor point out in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy.
The study followed 43 adults, ages 63 to 94, in a residential care facility in Belgium. Twenty-two used walking aids (most used a four-wheeled walker, two used a two-wheeled walker, one used a walker without wheels and one used a cane).