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A few words no one wants to hear…’mum’s had a fall’.

It’s no secret that as we age the risk of falls increases, and while it may be very common, it is not normal.

Did you know that falls account for more than 80% of injury-related hospital admissions in people older than 65 years of age?

3 key risk factors of falls in older adults have been identified.

Joint position sense

Knowing where your body is in space is a big one when it comes to falls risk. Think about it, if your brain is able to accurately interpret where everything is – including your limbs – then navigation of your surroundings becomes easier.

Reaction time

The time it takes for your brain to process or interpret your environment plays an important role in avoiding falls. An uneven surface could be difficult to navigate if your brain is processing the environment more slowly than you are travelling through it. Being able to interpret the need for, and then take a quick step is critical.

Multisensory integration

This is basically a fancy term for how well your senses are able to work together to paint a picture of your surroundings for your brain to respond to. Each of your senses should be interpreted along side each other – more or less synchronised. But, what we do know is the ageing population has more difficulty with this process as the years go by. This can be an issue when you consider the ability to link sight and sound to navigate traffic or even avoid dangerous situations.

The best part, we CAN improve these functions.

If this stuff relates to a loved one, or you think it’s relevant to yourself then you’re probably wondering what we can do about it? You can find the outcomes of the study here.

Lets take a closer look.

We know the brain communicates with the body via the spinal cord and spinal nerves (the Central Nervous System). It’s this intricate system that regulates and coordinates every single function of the entire body. Read here to learn how spinal function can interfere with this vital communication network.

Joint position sense

The researchers in this study chose to look at ankle joint position sense, and the impact of the chiropractic adjustment. The group receiving chiropractic adjustments showed significant improvements in comparison to the control group (the group that didn’t get adjusted). This illustrates the potential impact the chiropractic adjustment has over the brain’s ability to accurately interpret where the body is in space, a process called proprioception.

When we think about proprioception and the role it plays in our day-to-day life it’s no surprise this is relevant to preventing falls.

Reaction time

This one is a no brainer, if you’re able to more quickly react to a situation then you have more time to respond to an obstacle – consider a sudden change in surface, or a misjudged step.

What the researchers found was that a persons ability to take a quick step improved with chiropractic adjustments in comparison to the control group. The improvements were over double the change that was reported after 6 months of physical exercise, and that’s pretty cool.

Multisensory Integration

We know that older people struggle to accurately process sound and visual information together.

Having the ability to see what you hear, and hear what you see is something we essentially take for granted. It’s one of those functions that we don’t have to think about – the body just takes care of it. If your ability to process each of your senses appropriately is compromised then confusion and even disorientation in your surroundings in more likely. The really cool part of this study was an obvious improvement in ability to process sensory information in older adults, the researchers looked at sight and sound – two vital senses when it comes to avoid dangerous situations.

These three risk factors play a large role in overall function, coordination and balance. Considering falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults this is a discussion we need to be having.

Chiropractic care is much less about pain than it is about overall function, and when it comes to falls risk prevention we are more concerned with maintaining a persons independence, autonomy and quality as life as they enjoy their retirement.

In our opinion, and that of leading chiropractic researchers a very important piece of the puzzle is optimised spinal function.

What are you waiting for? Go and see your chiropractor, or call Thrive Chiropractic Co to organise your initial assessment.

Dr Jake

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