Osteoporosis and Reducing Your Risk of Falls
Falls and fractures
One of the most serious complications of osteoporosis is when a person experiences a fracture. A significant risk factor for experiencing a fracture is when a person falls. Fractures are a major cause of pain, disability and in some cases death, so this is why there is a major focus on preventing falls in patients with osteoporosis, as part of the overall management of individual patients.
What causes people to experience falls?
We’ve all tripped over at some point, and most of us don’t come to any harm as we are able to stop ourselves from completely falling over and hitting the ground. As we get older, a number of things change that may increase our risk of falls and reduce our ability to stop ourselves from completely falling over.
The following are some of the factors that may increase your likelihood of experiencing a fall.
- Being an older person
- History of falls
- Impaired vision
- Poor balance
- Multiple medications (certain types)
- Alcohol intake
- Certain medical conditions that impair physical and mental functioning
- Poor muscle strength
- Poorly fitting footwear
- Incorrect glasses for vision correction
- Hazards in the home (eg loose mats and rugs, stairs)
How can the risk of falls be reduced?
As it can be seen from the list, many of these risk factors are modifiable. For example, if a patient has poor balance, encourage them to use a cane when walking. Use glasses to correct vision where possible. A number of medications can cause confusion, dizziness and drowsiness as side effects, and consequently this increases the risk of falls. You can check with your pharmacist whether any of the medications you take have these side effects. Having poor muscle strength reduces your ability to balance correctly. Talk to a physiotherapist about learning some exercises too improve your muscle strength and improve your balance. Correctly fitting shoes with non slip soles may also help minimise the risk of falls. Most falls that occur happen to people in their own home. The home can be full of hazards that may contribute to falls, so modifying the home to minimise these hazards that may contribute to falls is an effective prevention strategy. Occupational therapists are skilled at identifying these hazards and recommending modifications, for example, using a non-slip mat in the bath or shower.
Is there anything else I have to do?
Remember that osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that can’t be cured, but can be effectively managed! Remember to:
- Take any medications for osteoporosis as prescribed by your doctor.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet, remembering to ensure you have enough calcium and vitamin D. Check with your doctor what your individual dietary needs are.
- Undertake regular exercise to keep bones and muscles strong and help with your balance