As people begin to age, the risk of injuries, primarily due to falls, becomes an increasing concern. While a significant amount of effort should be invested in preventative measures, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of a fall. With this in mind it is important to understand those injuries that are most prevalent in seniors, as well as the physical therapy exercises that are used most often to treat these common injuries. While young adults may be able to experience a fall and recover without any type of assistance, the elderly will likely need some type of rehabilitation program to facilitate their recovery.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health, falls are the leading cause of death and injury among seniors, with 45 percent of accidental deaths and injuries resulting from falls. This also means that the leading injuries among seniors will most likely be the result of a fall. When it comes to hospital stays for seniors, 83 percent of these encounters are the result of a fall. Understanding that nearly all injuries sustained by the elderly will be the result of a fall, means that the most common injuries among seniors will be impact injuries.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 250,000 individuals over the age of 65 are hospitalized every year for hip fractures — with 95 percent of those fractures resulting from a fall. Hip fractures are one the most serious injuries for an elderly person, because it is immensely difficult to recover from, and the lack of mobility it creates generally leads to a rapid decline in health.
When a senior suffers a broken hip, it will be paramount to find them a physical therapy program at an established, high quality health and rehab center, in order to ensure that the senior receives the therapy that will be so vital to their recovery. When it comes to hip fractures, the physical therapy will include a plan to improve flexibility, toe touching and mild and comfortable weight bearing exercises.
Knee injuries are also common among seniors, and the vast majority of these injuries are due to falls. Although knee injuries are not as challenging to the mobility of the patient as a fractured hip, they do limit the patient’s ability to move about, and as with all joint injuries, inflammation and pain can be a significant problem. It will be important to use physical therapy exercises that focus on flexibility and developing strength in the muscles that service the knee joint. This will help to support the ligaments and tendons in the knee as it recovers and gets stronger.
Broken or Sprained Wrists
Broken and sprained wrists are common defensive injuries, meaning that most of these injuries result from seniors attempting to break their falls by extending their arms and hands outward. Once the cast or brace has been removed, it will be important for the therapist to immediately begin working on flexibility and range of motion, while limiting weight bearing exercises until the bone strengths completely.
The key to achieving the most efficacious results in rehabbing these injuries is to choose a highly qualified therapist that has the expertise to design and carry out an effective treatment program.