LiveSmart: Physical Therapy – The First Step in Decreasing Your Fall Risk

[This piece was written by Misty Jones, supervisor of Rehabilitation Services for Albany Memorial Hospital, part of St. Peter’s Health Partners Patient Therapies.]

Each year, more than two million people are treated in emergency departments nationwide for non-fatal falls. Of those, approximately 700,000 patients were admitted to the hospital for treatment of injuries ranging from fractures to lacerations, with some as serious as head trauma and internal bleeding.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 1,000 deaths occur each year in New York state as a result of falls. Nationally, falls are the sixth leading cause of death for individuals over the age of 65.

Falls are more common and cause more injury than many realize. The key to fall prevention is identifying why individuals, especially seniors, are prone to falling and then managing the individual’s underlying risk factors.

Among older adults, falls generally occur due to:

  • Physical conditions (weakness, dizziness, balance issues)
  • Visual disturbances
  • Hearing deficits
  • Medication side effects
  • Environmental obstructions

When physical conditions are suspected, the first step is to visit a primary care physician. They can conduct a complete physical, identify issues that could increase your risk for a fall, and provide a referral to physical therapy or occupational therapy services.

A physical therapist can work with you to create an individualized assessment of fall risk. They can craft a treatment plan to address issues of strength, flexibility, balance, behavioral risk factors, and environmental risk factors.

An occupational therapist can assist you in focusing on daily activities to help you remain as independent as possible despite injury, illness or disability. They can teach how to safely perform important daily activities, as well as provide suggestions on home modifications to decrease fall risks.

St. Peter’s Health Partners started a Fall Risk Coalition three years ago to decrease fall risk and injury in our community. The coalition includes caregivers from various disciplines in a variety of settings including emergency medical services, primary care offices, acute care hospitals, rehab, home health, and outpatient clinics. The goal is to provide education and therapy to individuals before they fall, in order to reduce their risk for serious injury.

Albany Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Services, part of SPHP’s Patient Therapies and located at 600 Northern Blvd. in Albany, offers tai chi and chair yoga programs designed to help individuals build core strength and reduce fall risk. The courses meet once a week for eight weeks, at a cost of $35. For more information, call (518) 471-3195.

SPHP offers a variety of outpatient occupational, physical, and certified hand therapies at locations throughout the Capital Region, accepting all insurances and providing quality one-on-one treatment. Our specialized staffs combine state-of-the-art treatment techniques and equipment with more traditional therapies. For information, visit us at

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