Health & Wellness

All Can Fall

Article Summary

Although falls are much more common in older adults, people can be at risk of falls and injury at any age. Alex’s story provides an example of how falls can be a risk for young people with vestibular disorders.

Falls Are Not Just For Seniors

Falls can happen anywhere, anytime. Falls are common among senior citizens and some even incorrectly consider them a normal part of aging.

But the truth is, anyone at any age can suffer a devastating fall as a result of vestibular system dysfunction.

The vestibular system lives in the inner ear and tells the brain where you are relative to your surroundings. If the vestibular system is damaged due to illness or injury, a person might experience dizziness, imbalance, disorientation, or even spinning vertigo, resulting in a fall.

Whether you’re 16 or 60 years old, if you have a vestibular disorder, take precautions to prevent a fall.

Teen Fights Back after Fall

Alex Shaddock
Diagnosis: Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness (PPPD)

Alex was an active 15-year-old sophomore in high school, playing soccer and hanging out with friends, until one day he wasn’t.

Soon after recovering from a virus, Alex fell in the shower. The vertigo was so bad he couldn’t get up. “I called out for my mom and managed to crawl out of the shower to the toilet before I started vomiting. My family had no idea what was going on but we suspected it was from my previous illnesses,” Alex recalled.

Several weeks later, Alex fell again in the shower. “The world started spinning backwards like it had done the first time,” Alex said. “I was not able to walk at all without help, and the nausea returned.”

Alex continued to experience constant backwards imbalance and vertigo that would get worse whenever he moved. He didn’t even feel secure lying down. “I would pile pillows around me so I didn’t feel like I would spin off the bed,” Alex said. “I couldn’t walk without a walker in the mornings and I needed a cane to get around the rest of the day.”

With the support of his family, friends, and therapists, Alex is improving every day and taking big steps to getting his balance back. “If I could give any advice at all, it would be to never give up,” Alex said. “Get out and see your friends and family, do things you love and focus on getting better.”

Video of Alex practicing walking without a cane during one of his early Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy sessions.

Test Your Balance

Here are two tests to gauge your risk of falling. Physical therapy, exercise, and being mindful can help maintain and improve your balance while decreasing the risk of a fall.

30-Second Sit to Stand Test

Count how many times you can stand up and sit down in a chair without using your hands as much as possible during 30 seconds.

Four Stage Balance Test

Stand in each of four, progressively harder positions for 10 seconds apiece.

  1. Stand with your feet side-by-side.
  2. Place the instep of one foot so it is touching the big toe of the other foot.
  3. Tandem stand: place one foot in front of the other, heel touching toe.
  4. Stand on one foot.
Four Step Balance Test

#AllCanFall Shareable Memes

Awareness of Body
Find Your Center
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Limit Drugs & Alcohol
Improve Nutrition
Identify Hazards

Tips for Balance & Stability

If you have a vestibular disorder, your first instinct may be to dial down the physical activity in your life. After all, there’s less risk of falling if you stay safely seated, right?

Actually, a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity can help you maintain your muscle mass and strength, and keep you flexible and limber, all of which help reduce your risk for injury and fracture.

Don’t let a fear of falling rule your life and leave you sitting on the sidelines. Instead, consider these five simple fall prevention strategies:

Focus on leg and core muscle strength

Do some form of leg and core muscle strengthening every day to make you more stable and secure on your feet. Exercises like side leg lifts, calf raises and wall slides are often good choices. Ask your healthcare provider for a fracture risk assessment and for exercise recommendations that are best for you.

Practice balance exercises

Performing balance exercises (such as the 30-Second Sit to Stand Test and 4 Stage Balance Test, above) can reduce falls, especially if practiced several times a week.

Put your best foot forward

Wear supportive, lightweight shoes that have firm, non-slip soles. (Read more about proper footwear.)

Use walking poles for stability

Walking poles increase upper body strength, provide stability and confidence while walking, and can be used for support during standing exercises, weight bearing activity and core muscle strengthening. Improved balance and attention to good posture are common fall prevention strategies. (Get 10% off on Urban Poling's Activator poles.)

Rework your living and office space for activity

Remove tripping hazards by eliminating clutter, such as loose rugs, storage boxes and magazine racks. Then look for opportunities to sit less and move more. For example, at the office regularly get up from your chair and stretch, take a stroll, stand during phone calls, or accomplish a walking errand. (Learn more about home safety.)