November 11, 2008
Pertaining to the article "Once Just an Aging Sign, Falls Merit Complex Care" (Nov. 7); older adults often think decreased physical activity levels will reduce the chance of falling. The opposite is true. To prevent falls, seniors must train their balance in the same way they train muscles for strength and their hearts for aerobic capacity. Balance may be improved with exercises that strengthen the ankle, knee, hip muscles and function of the vestibular (balance) system.
Physical therapists also recommend: walking regimens including changes in surfaces/terrains, distance, and elevations; Tai Chi; and aquatics classes geared toward balance and coordination. The one-on-one nature of their treatment methods, allow a physical therapist to provide interpersonal support to motivate patients and boost morale, a key factor in recovery. In most states, patients can visit a physical therapist directly, without a referral. Licensed physical therapists can be found on the American Physical Therapy Association's site at www.findapt.us.
R Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association