Local lifestyle columnists

Stay active to prevent falls and arthritis

By From page D4 | May 25, 2014

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis and the leading cause of disability in older adults.

Disability can lead to inactivity, which can evolve into greater pain, decreased cardiac health and increased fall risk. Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to reduce arthritis pain and maintain an active lifestyle. Here are a few things that can help reduce your joint pain and improve your mobility:

  • Low-impact exercise such as walking, biking, swimming, tai chi and yoga.
  • Resistance exercises for strengthening.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Physical therapy.

Another issue for older adults is falls. One third of older adults fall in a year. Falls can lead to traumatic injuries such as fractures, decreased function, immobility and, in some cases, death. Prevention of falls is critical. Predictors of falls can include abnormalities in gait and balance, recent falls, recent injuries with falls, visual impairments, multiple medications, decrease in activities of daily living and impaired cognition. One reason falls are common is decreased balance. Here’s a quick balance test you can perform to determine if you are at possible risk for a fall.

Single leg stance test

Stand near a sturdy surface, such as a countertop, where you won’t be at risk for falling. Have a friend or spouse use a timer or clock to time you. With eyes opened, slowly lift one leg off floor. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Stop timer if you put your foot down or start to lean to the side more than 30 degrees. Repeat on other side. Researchers from the University of Missouri have established norms for Single Leg Stance for different ages:

20-49: 29 seconds

50-59: 28 seconds

60-69: 26 seconds

70-79: 14 seconds

Standing on one leg is only one component of balance. Balance requires function from your vestibular system (within your inner ear), somatosensory system (sensory information from joints, muscles and skin) and visual system. A deficit in one or more of these systems can reduce your ability to balance. A physical therapist can help you pinpoint your deficits.

A physical therapist may take you through balance tests in order to determine your fall risk, look at your quality of movement, strength and set up a plan to address your needs. In addition to addressing balance, physical therapy can help with joint pain, especially pain associated with arthritis.

Schedule an appointment today to see your physical therapist to help improve your quality of life.

Dr. Holly Pulket is a physical therapist and is affiliated with Sutter Medical Foundation and Sutter Medical Group in Vacaville, and is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.


Holly Pulket


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