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Let’s say you lose your balance one day…
…Something knocks you off-kilter and you fall. What can you do now to make sure your body doesn’t get seriously injured when this happens?
I fell the other day. Hard. Like - hit the deck. Here’s what happened…
- We had just gotten home from my older son’s soccer tournament, and my younger son was feeling inspired and wanted to kick the ball around in the back yard while my husband made dinner.
- My new motto lately, has been to say YES to things, especially with my boys. (I jumped off a huge rope swing into the water with my older son this summer!) I don’t want to be a mom that says “no” to adventurous things! So watching my younger son kick the ball around by himself, I decided to hop up and join him.
- We started passing in challenging ways, and I was cutting back and forth to get to the ball. One pass came, and the ball went past me, so I ran after it to do a quick pull back. But when I planted my foot, the wet grass and my flip flop met, and went down straight on my bum. Instinctively, my hands went down behind me to catch my fall.
- But I wasn’t hurt - no broken bones, pulled muscles or whiplash or anything.
- Other than being shocked and a little jarred, and muddy, I was fine. I thought the next day I might be sore from it, but I really wasn’t.
Why? What are the factors at play that determine if even you hit the deck hard, you don’t get injured?
Here are some really interesting stats about falling and injuries in the US:
- Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death among Americans 65 and older. One out of four older adults will fall each year in the United States.
- Women fall more often than men and account for 75% of all hip fractures.
- The most common injuries are fractures of the hip, forearm, humerus, and pelvis usually resulting from the combined effect of falls AND osteoporosis
- Other injuries that occur are deep bruises, joint dislocations, severe laceration, sprains and muscle tears, and other disabling soft tissue injuries.
- “Postall syndrome” - anxiety around falling and a fear of falling, because you had a tramautic experience with a fall. When someone has “postfall syndrome”, they’ll be less active and mobile, and tend to become more dependent on others.
I know falls might sound inevitable and scary as you age.
- Maybe you had a family member or close friend fall, and you’re afraid it might happen to you, too
- I don’t want you to be scared
- There are some things you can do to prevent falls from happening, but first, I want to tell you what you can do starting today to ensure that if you DO fall, you don’t get injured
What you can do NOW to dramatically reduce the risk of injuries if you fall:
- Pay attention to your bone density and do everything you can NOW to increase your bone density (268. Increase Bone Density and Prevent (and Reverse!) Osteoporosis)
- The greatest and most debilitating injuries occur when a fall happens to somebody with low bone density and osteoporosis (fractures!)
- If your bones are dense, even if you slam down hard, you might just get a bruise and that’s it.
- Work on improve your joint mobility, muscular strength & power
- If your joints are tight and you have very limited range of motion, falling can often force your joints to stretch well past what they’re used to, leading to tears and strains, but if you’re nice and flexible - the likelihood of that happening is quite low
- If you don’t have muscular strength and power, your body may (as a reflex) may instinctively contract your muscles harder and faster than they’re used to, once again leading to tears and strains in your soft tissues
- Practice voluntary “unguarding” of your muscle
- This is so important for the “aftereffects” of a fall - As a survival mechanism, our muscle may sometimes clench, guard and hold tension unnecessarily long past the actual moment you fell
- Nothing got hurt, but your muscles still feel like there was trauma, so they’ll cramp. This is often why neck pain, shoulder pain and back pain, like from a whiplash, can linger way longer than any damage to tissue
- The best way to do this is a “body scan” with deep breathing (I have a YouTube video of a bedtime routine that finishes with a body scan) - if you practice this now, it will come in handy when you really need it
Unfortunately, you can NOT predict if and when a fall might happen.
And honestly, if you’re a more active and adventurous person (I was out there playing soccer with my boys), you’re going to be putting yourself in riskier situations.
- If you follow these steps and diligently work on these things, they’ll ensure your chance of getting injured if you fall go way down.
- But if you neglect these aspects of your fitness in your everyday routine, a simple little fall can have a dramatic and lasting impact on your life.
- Even if it’s just that “Postfall” syndrome
The BIG takeaway here…
…is to know that getting injured if you fall is NOT inevitable, and there are active things you can do to reduce that risk. What do you need to work on the most right now?
- Bone density?
- Joint mobility, muscular strength & power?
- Learning how to voluntarily unguard your muscles if you tend to be a clencher?
Come back next week, because I’m going to teach you how to prevent falls from happening in the first place!
More Resources & Links
Episode 268. Increase Bone Density and Prevent (and Reverse!) Osteoporosis
YouTube video with guided body scan at the end: Bedtime Stretches to Improve Your Sleep
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