APTA Responds to The New York Times on Balance and Falls

September 22, 2010

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your article "Staying on Balance, with the Help of Exercises" (Sept. 15, 2010). While the piece raises several great points regarding how important good balance is to the elderly for avoiding dangerous falls, I was surprised to find no mention of the important role a physical therapist plays in balance related issues and falls prevention.

As your article rightly states, balance is critical to aging well and maintaining mobility. Physical therapists are highly educated health care professionals who understand the anatomical and physiological changes of aging. They integrate scientific evidence, clinical judgment, and assessment of the patient to develop an appropriate, individualized plan of care.

Although age is a risk factor for falling, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. A physical therapist can perform a comprehensive balance assessment to determine what factors are contributing to an individual's loss of mobility, risk for falls, and/or decreased confidence. She/he would then develop the individualized plan of care that would be most beneficial to reduce the individual's risk of falling. Physical therapists consider the patient's aerobic conditioning, balance, coordination, flexibility, gait, and muscle strength as well as pre-existing health conditions and medications before making any exercise recommendations.

Physical therapists provide effective, affordable, and conservative care and, in most states, individuals can make an appointment to see one without a physician referral. To learn more or find a physical therapist visit www.moveforwardpt.com.

Yours sincerely,

R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD, President
President, American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)