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The New Science of Slips and Falls: What the Research Tells Us

The New Science of Slips and Falls: What the Research Tells Us

While we’ve all seen the old banana peel skit, slips and trips in the real world are no laughing matter. Simply falling to the floor or pavement from an upright position causes a great many serious injuries—and even deaths—each year. No one really knows for certain how many falls could actually be prevented, but the topic is of growing interest to a wide variety of people, from public health officials, designers, architects and community planners to business owners, workplace supervisors and employees. Senior citizens are perhaps the most at risk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presents several statistics that highlight this point:

  • One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year, but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.
  • Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.
  • Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. In 2010, about 21,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. In 2010, there were 258,000 hip fractures.
  • Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling.
  • In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized. In 2010, the direct medical cost of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion.

Walking is a very complex activity, and science has only recently begun to understand the biomechanics involved. Shirley Wang wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Scientists are finding that maintaining stability and balance with each step we take requires complex coordination of foot placement, arm movement, trunk angle and neck and head motion.” At the same time, researchers are also learning how other factors like sloping, uneven or slippery surfaces and obstructions come into play. There are many variables to consider. Even when the body’s movements are perfectly coordinated, small things about environment can still foil our best efforts to remain upright.

We know from nervous system studies that the body is capable of reacting within milliseconds. Science has shown that a person’s balance is maintained by simultaneous feedback from the body’s visual system, proprioceptive system and inner ear. If one of these systems becomes less efficient or fails altogether, then the other two can usually compensate to keep us balanced. If two fail, then balance becomes far more difficult. Aging frequently leads to poorer eyesight and troubles with the inner ear, so it’s small wonder that seniors are more likely to fall.

Canadian researchers at Simon Fraser University used video cameras in a long-term care facility to see if seniors were right about “tripping” or “slipping” being the reasons for their falls. What they found was surprising. Tripping actually accounted for only 20% of events. The nearly 3-year study of 227 falls involving 130 people showed that the single largest cause (41%) was from improper weight shifting, such as leaning over too far. This seems to indicate a failure in the seniors’ proprioceptive system.

There are a few ways you can help to prevent slips and falls. Be sure to keep walkways clear of clutter, and consider adding non-skid material to flooring—especially to floors that are more likely to become wet. Maintaining your strength helps too. Upper body strength is particularly important for catching yourself before or during a fall. Even when there’s nothing to grab onto, having the sort of upper body strength that helps you to do push-ups can soften the blow to more sensitive parts of the body. Reaching out with hands and flexing elbows upon impact can slow the fall or stop it altogether. The late Jack LaLanne, fitness guru, was still doing fingertip pushups at age 93. Don’t say it can’t be done!

Balance requires that every part of the body works well together. Dr. Oblander can help you maintain this balance by ensuring you have a healthy spine and nervous system.  He can also recommend specific exercises that maintain or increase your upper body strength.  So if you or someone you care about is interested in avoiding slips and falls, we can help you take advantage of the latest research!  Just call or visit our office today: 406-652-3553!

 

Falls Among Seniors: What You Should Know

Falls Among Seniors: What You Should Know

— seen against the afternoon sun

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults over the age of 65 has a fall in any given year. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for adults in this age range, as well as the most common cause of trauma-related hospital admissions. More than 1.6 million older adults go to the emergency room for fall-related injuries each year in the United States. Whether you are above the age of 65, or you care for someone who is, knowing how to prevent a fall could help you save a life.

There are several risk factors that you can address to help prevent a fall. The first factor is a lack of physical activity. As adults grow older it becomes difficult to exercise on a regular basis. This leads to a decrease in strength and a loss of bone flexibility and mass. All of these factors can make falls more likely and injuries more severe.

Fortunately, there are ways for older adults to stay active. Regular exercise is the best place to start. Fifteen minutes of an exercise designed to increase bone and muscle strength should be done every other day. This can be as simple as taking a walk or going for a swim a few times a week.

The risk of falls increases when seniors do not take adequate time to carry out daily activities. It is important to stay safe and to take your time when bending over and when lifting things. Be sure to recover your balance first before taking a step when getting out of bed or a chair.

Seniors on medications may find that their balance is impaired and their mental alertness is reduced. Some medications can cause a drop in blood pressure while you are standing up, throwing you off balance. Be sure to understand all of the side effects of your medications, and be clear with your doctor about any fears you have about your balance. He or she may be able to reduce your dosage to help keep the side effects under control.

Environmental hazards are one of the biggest risk factors for senior falls. These hazards can include items on the floor that are easy to trip on, loose rugs, unsteady furniture, and poor lighting.

To reduce the risk of environmental factors causing a fall, take time to walk through the house to locate any potential hazards. Rugs can be secured with nonskid tape and throw rugs can be removed altogether. Furniture should be kept in good repair and clutter should be kept to a minimum. Finally, consider having grab bars installed to help you get up and down securely.

Falls among seniors can be frightening, but there are steps that you can take to help prevent them. By being cautious and staying in good health, seniors can increase their chances of avoiding harmful falls.

Growth Plate Injuries: What Parents Should Know

Growth Plate Injuries: What Parents Should Know

boy-with-chocolate
boy-with-chocolate

For a child, falling down is almost inevitable and generally doesn’t result in a trip to the emergency room. However, even minor falls can sometimes cause serious injuries. If you hear a cracking sound or if your child has bruising, swelling, or a limb deformity, there’s a chance your child may have broken a bone and you should seek medical attention right away if you notice these symptoms. Most types of breaks are routine (for the medical staff if not for the parent), but those involving a growth plate can present complications and require extra attention.

There is a marked difference between the bones of an adult and those of a child. Children have what are called physes—that is, growth plates. These growth plates are located at the end of long bones in the arms and legs. The growth plates, made of soft, rubbery cartilage, cause the bone to grow in length. Growth plates are found near the shoulder joint, elbow joint, hip joint, knee joint, ankle joint and wrist joint. Of the six main locations the ankles and wrists are particularly vulnerable to harm.

Growth plate damage can lead to long term problems. When a growth plate is injured, the bone may stop or slow growing. This is why it is essential to seek qualified medical treatment immediately to avoid problems later in life. If injured, a child should under no circumstances “walk it off.”

It is imperative to get the child to a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect a growth plate break. Growth plates heal quite rapidly, which gives doctors only a very short window to do non- surgical manipulations in order to set broken bones correctly. If your child has a minor, non-displaced break, the doctor may treat it like a sprain and recommend a splint, cast, or walking boot to protect the area for four to six weeks. Usually, these types of fractures do not require long-term care. Preferably, a growth plate fracture should be set within a week of injury.

When a child’s bone has moved or been displaced, an orthopedist can set the bone back in place in the emergency room without the need to operate. The child will be anaesthetized in the emergency department, and the doctor will use X-rays to determine where to correctly move the bone. Once the bone has been set, the doctor will set a cast in order to keep the bone in place. Usually the child will be allowed to go home that night, but occasionally they will be admitted to ensure the swelling is not too severe. Proper care and follow up will likely involve physical therapy and doctor’s visits for the next half a year.

Most growth plate fractures heal properly and do not result in any long-term issues. Once in a while, the bone stops growing and winds up shorter than the other appendage. For example, a fractured leg might become shorter than the opposite leg. Early detection that growth is unequal between the two limbs is essential. However, this is a true minority of cases and most children heal just fine.

Why Do Infants and Children Need Chiropractic Treatment?

Why Do Infants and Children Need Chiropractic Treatment?

There are several events in my life that I wish I had done a better job of recording or saving for posterity. One such event that continues to stand out in my mind is my granddaughter’s runny nose. You may think that sounds funny but there is a reason that I wish I had done a better job of recording her runny nose.

You see…when this granddaughter was  infant and toddler aged she had a runny nose that literally made my granddaughter a proverbial “snot nosed kid”. Excuse the grossness but the snot at times literally bubbled out of her nose.  When she fell asleep – the congestion caused her to sound like a little old man. Keeping the snot wiped away from her nose could have employed a person full time.

Unfortunately, we did not live close to this sweet little girl when she was experiencing these problems. Trips to the doctor confirmed that she was not experiencing any allergies. However, I can tell you what made all the difference in the world was chiropractic adjustments. The few times that my husband was able to adjust her was like watching a miracle in action.

We would let her fall asleep (we knew she was sound asleep as soon as she started sounding like a little old man snoring) and then my husband would adjust her. It was something like this to start with….kkkkkzzzzzzugh…kkkkzzzzzzugh (you know the kind of horrible snoring sounds that make you think you need to wake the person so they can actually get some air into their lungs)…then the sound changed to…uuuuuzh….uuuuuzh (snoring but only ever so slightly)….then to deep full breathing without any snoring or obstruction. The whole transformation taking only a couple of minutes.

Yup…if I had been smart enough to record her breathing transformation – it could have been a YouTube hit video just because of how amazing the transformation was.

When infants are born…standard birthing procedures almost always guarantee that the infant’s head will be twisted to help move the shoulders out of the birthing canal. 80% of infants checked during the first few months of life had subluxations directly related to birth trauma. The most common ailment caused by the birthing process is infant colic – which not surprisingly is very successfully treated in almost all  circumstances by chiropractic adjustments.

We had another granddaughter that initially experienced colic related to the birthing process. Not only was she fussy…she hurled a large portion of her mother’s milk consistently after nursing. After just two chiropractic adjustments, her colic and hurling tendencies were vanished.

The birthing process and then all of the regular experiences of childhood make infants and children ideal candidates for chiropractic treatment. The whole process of learning to move, crawl, walk and run – with all of the bumps and bangs and falls that come with their learning progression are a big reason why.

Chiropractic adjustments in children can remedy colic, allergies, bed wetting, ear infections, sinus problems, ADD/ADHD, and scoliosis just to name a few.

By the way, if you have a child that has a nose congestion issue like my granddaughter had and you can bring her to our office, give our office a call – I would love to video tape the difference that an adjustment will make! Yours in Health!

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