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Do you worry about losing your balance as you get older? It’s perfectly normal to worry about falling, and it does happen more often as people age. Increasing your awareness bolstered by daily exercise can help.

How the fear of falling develops

About one-third of older adults fall annually, says audiologist Julie Honaker, PhD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Vestibular and Balance Disorders Laboratories.

“Those who fall develop a greater fear of falling. But, even those who don’t fall can develop the fear if they have a friend who’s fallen. They know the consequences of the injuries and how it can impact their independence,” she says.

The role of balance issues

Fear may develop as people begin to lose control over their balance. Problems with vision, the inner ear or the sense of touch in a person’s feet and ankles are often at work. These balance issues also can lead to poor muscle control, Dr. Honaker says.

“Those with a fear may have trouble dealing with obstacles. They may fixate on objects and have trouble seeing beyond or around them, so they’re more likely to trip,” she says. “However, those without the fear may deal with things in their path with no problems.”

Awareness counteracts negative thought patterns

Developing fears can set people up for a negative pattern, Dr. Honaker says.

The uncertainty may lead people to withdraw from activities they enjoy. Doing so can worsen their balance and make participation even more difficult. “This all puts them at a greater risk of falling,” she says. “It’s a vicious cycle that can limit people’s independence.”

Some people also tighten their muscles when the feel they’re about to fall. This stiffening can limit a person’s range of motion and make a fall more likely, Dr. Honaker says.

While it’s common to experience such effects, it’s so important to be aware of this tendency and work against it. Do everything you can to continue staying engaged in activities.

Exercise builds strength and confidence

The most important part of managing and alleviating your fear of falling is to start exercising regularly. This directly addresses balance issues, Dr. Honaker says.

Daily exercise can build the strength you need to avoid future falls. Good activities for improving balance include:

  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Stretching

Dr. Honaker also recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Stepping On program.

“These activities get you out and walking in a group setting,” she says. “They build up your confidence so you can actively work on your balance.”

Those with severe balance issues would likely benefit from personalized attention from a physical therapist, she says.

Various devices can also help reduce your risk of falling, including:

  • Canes
  • Walkers
  • Reachers to help you pick up items without bending over
  • Hand rails
  • Grab bars
  • Raised toilet seats

Improving lighting (including adding night lights) and removing loose carpets and rugs can also help prevent falls at home.

When to talk to your doctor

If the fear of falling is difficult to manage, talk to your primary care physician. It’s especially important to do so if you experience the following:

  • Increased fearfulness
  • Slow or cautious walk or gait
  • Expressed discomfort with formerly enjoyed activities
  • Wider gait
  • Reduced head movement

Ultimately, Dr. Honaker says, it’s important for older adults to talk to their doctors about the risks and fear of falling. Your doctor can evaluate your personal fall risk so you can address the problem.

“Having this discussion puts you on track with resources that might help you avoid falls,” she says.

SOURCE: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2017/12/do-you-worry-about-falling-how-to-conquer-the-fear/

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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

Dear Patients:

Our patients, employees and family are our top priority at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

We ask you to not visit any of our locations if you have symptoms such as fever, sneezing, coughing and possible shortness of breath.

Please cancel your appointment and re-schedule once you are feeling better and are no longer suffering with symptoms.

Only non-symptomatic patients will be seen. No exceptions.

Accompanying family members – including children – are asked to remain in the waiting area and will not be allowed to enter the exam rooms.

During this time of high concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) we are taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible standards of safety and cleanliness. Please be advised that we are carefully following recommendations from both the CDC and WHO and are here to help guide you through this time if needed.

Some steps we are taking to keeping safe:

  1. We know how important cleanliness is and always maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. To further offer you peace of mind, we have increased the frequency of the cleaning of our office.
  2. Rest assured that hand washing is strictly followed. Hand sanitizer is available to all staff and patients.
  3. Additionally, if you have recently traveled to a country with high rates of the coronavirus or have been on a cruise, please reschedule your visit for at least 14 days from your return date. We will gladly accommodate your needs to reschedule. At that time, a telehealth interface can be arranged if necessary.

Find up-to-date and accurate information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and feel free to reach out with questions.

- Your team at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

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