Tips to Reduce Risk of Falls in Adults

When we’re young, falling isn’t much of an ordeal. In fact, it’s likely more embarrassing than anything. But, as individuals age, the risk of falling heightens—and the result of those falls may require extreme medical intervention, even surgery.

In order to best reduce the risk of falls, there are certain steps adults can adopt. Dr. Becky Steffens, physical therapist at Jefferson Healthcare, shares important tips individuals can take away and incorporate into their daily life.

“Sometimes, one system is working more than the other. A good example of this is at night when we can’t rely on our vision quite as much. We need our vestibular system and our somatosensory system to work a bit more to help us maintain our balance. It will just depend on the situation and what system needs to be working the hardest,” explains Dr. Steffens.

Physical therapy is effective in addressing balance issues—to varying degrees. For example, someone who is suffering from vertigo can benefit greatly from physical therapy strategies. But, a person who is living with Parkinson’s disease needs a more complex approach to prevent falls from occurring.

Physical Therapy Strategies to Improve Balance

Dr. Steffens notes one of the first lines of defense in fall-specific physical therapy is the “ankle strategy,” followed by hip strength, and working on one’s steps.

“As you’re swaying on your ankles, can you sway and keep your balance? Next, we use our hips, so making sure we have strength in our hips and being able to pull ourselves back to midline. The final thing we work on is stepping strategy. If you lose your balance, your center of gravity sways too much that you need to take that step and react.”

Individuals who have fallen and are recovering also benefit from enlisting the help of a physical therapist. If someone is falling multiple times a day, Dr. Steffens urges physical therapy intervention as soon as possible.

Taking Charge of Balance in Daily Life

Alongside physical therapy, individuals who struggle with balance can also turn to assisted devices like canes and walkers. These devices have changed dramatically over the years to optimize mobility. Simple changes around the home are encouraged as well—removing rugs you might trip over, using night lights to avoid falling in the dark, and installing handrails in bathrooms and along stairways.

“The CDC has a really good checklist I often refer people to on their website. It’s a home safety checklist you can work through to make sure there’s any simple changes you can make to your house,” shares Dr. Steffens.

Preventative activities are also beneficial for reducing risk of falls. Dr. Steffens advises daily walking or other exercises to build endurance and strength, which contributes to good balance.

“Taking some exercise classes a couple times a week is great practice and it’s enjoyable. You can go see your friends and all get stronger and balance better together,” she notes. “Sometimes we just assume balance is going to get worse as we age, and there is some truth to that. But, I do hope that if you’re having trouble you reach out, ask for help. We can improve it. It can get better, and we don’t just have to accept the dreaded aging process.”


Listen as Becky Steffens, DPT shares information, tips and strategies on How to reduce your risk of falls. Listen Here

The System Trifecta of Good Balance

Good balance is crucial for preventing falls. Three main elements contribute to balance:

  • Somatosensory System—provides key feedback in relation to body position (among other elements like temperature, touch, pain)
  • Vision—helps you know where you are in your physical space
  • Vestibular System—includes the inner ear, which is an integral part of maintaining balance
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