Why do we fall more as we age?

In the first years of our lives, we strive to stand up and walk. We achieve milestones of rolling, tummy time, sitting, standing then walking. We refine this innate skill as we grow through childhood. We never really thought about the need to stand, we just did it, it was an unconscious, innate desire.
Then through the following years to adulthood we played, ran, climbed, worked, sat down – stood up without a second thought. This unconscious ability to stand up and move only becomes genuinely appreciated when it is NOT working. This a quality-of-life issues this innate feature should be robust throughout our life, vertigo, dizziness, feeling unstable are expressions of this human function breaking down.
With 40% of Taurangas population over 50 years old and ACC records in 2016 stating 1 in 6 people over 50 have an ACC recorded fall this will only get worse as the population ages. Injury from Falls are costly to the healthcare system, however, personally it changes your life. First, small subconscious changes, being more wary and alert to threats, then slowly changing your daily activities, plans and intent.” Oh, I won’t go out today because it’s raining” “I won’t go out today because it looks like rain” “I won’t go out today because it might rain”. Steadily your life changes but this will not help to change this balance system we took for granted.

There are three systems that create the postural drive.

1. Visual; this identifies where you are in your surroundings, and what obstacles are there. Crowded shopping mall, busy footpath, stairs, slippery path, moving from bright daylight to a dark room.

2. Vestibular(balance); This mechanism determines how you are positioned relative to gravity. Are you leaning forward, bending forward, standing up straight, turning your head or turning body? Are leaning or moving outside the limits of your stability, are you near falling?

3. Proprioception; Is information from how the ankle, knee, hip lower and lower back are moving, also it informs how the head is moving relative to the trunk of your body. Muscle spindles and receptors in the skin become vital for creating the unconscious mental picture of how your joints are moving, what the surface is under your feet, have you slipped a bit.

David Wellington – I graduated from New Zealand College of Chiropractic and recently completed a Musculoskeletal Management Diploma from Christchurch College of Orthopedics (Otago University). My interests as I get older I am focusing falls prevention, and as I look back its to help younger patients who are having trouble reading, learning and achieving academically.