Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Cobb with Z-Health Performance and September in the United States is fall prevention month.I wanted to take a few of our videos this month and talk about the idea of improving balance and fall prevention from a brain-based perspective. If you’re new to Z Health we are a brain-based education company. We work with doctors, therapists, and coaches around the world, so if you are a movement professional and are interested in incorporating more neurology and Neuroscience into what you’re doing, make sure to subscribe to the channel and check out our free resources.
All right, fall prevention. Why should we care? Well, if you look at the statistics around falling while it is an innocuous problem for many people if you move well and you have an idea of how to fall safely when we actually look at morbidity and mortality statistics around the world falls are the second leading cause of death. It is a very very big deal. Now obviously most of us are familiar with the idea that as people get older they are at more of it fall risk and whenever they do fall often we see fractures hospitalizations and then a progressive decline in function and often even people dying from them.So we actually spend a lot of time in the Z-Health curriculum talking about many systems that are involved in maintaining balance in the real world. So what I want to do today is just discuss basics.I am wearing this t-shirt on purpose it says see well, balance well, move well, integrate well. This is actually the recipe. If you want to think about it for improving balance in real world functional tasks.
So whenever we deal with anyone that we are concerned about having a high fall risk the first thing we do is we send them to their eye doctor we send them to their ear doctor. Why? Because whenever we look at statistics, loss of vision and loss of hearing at any level can predispose people to falling. And I know that may sound obviously very basic but you would be shocked over the years that how many people we have worked with that we asked them hey when’s the last time you had an eye evaluation when’s the last time you had a hearing evaluation and they’ll say well I’ve never had one or it’s been 10 years they’ve been wearing the same prescription glasses for 20 years. All of those small factors begin to add up in a very real way. So although we do a ton of vision training we do a lot of auditory training we work with the vestibular system in the Z-Health curriculum you have to begin with the basics.
So make sure that at bare minimum that they are using corrected visual devices if necessary. Again I’m not saying that this is the best idea but I’m saying if I’m concerned about someone falling I might not have time to do three six nine 12 months of vision training with them we may need an immediate intervention to help them be a little bit more safe and so think about that get their eyes checked and again get their hearing checked. Whenever we talk about hearing why would that matter in a world of falls? Well it should be relatively obvious that you’re beginning to lose the ability to notice where things are in the environment you may miss someone telling you hey be careful watch out. More importantly the vestibular system and the auditory system share the same nerve. So when people are suffering from loss of auditory competency meaning they’re not able to hear as well at certain levels of certain decimal levels or certain frequencies there is going to be a subsequent impact maybe small but can build up over time to the vestibular system as well because they share common anatomy.
So, with that in mind we then want to talk about the movement side. Whenever you look at the most current research on movement and fall prevention there are a couple of very important points that come up.
Number one, we need people to be strong but we need them to be strong in a specific way. When we look at kind of traditional strength training versus power training, we’re beginning to see is that the ability to exert power or force is more important in avoiding falls. Which should make some sense I’m walking along that trip I need to be able to move quickly and stop myself that is a power move as opposed to just a pure strength move. So if you are working with a population in which you think hey maybe these people are at fall risk you need to start thinking about how to incorporate some more power based exercises. It doesn’t have to be you know an Olympic snatch or anything like that but we do need to have people practice working forcefully and with speed but do that in a safe way.
The other thing that is absolutely tied into this is that while power and strength are important agility may be even more important. So another key piece of helping people prevent falls is making sure that they are continually working on maintaining agility. So what I want to do today just to kind of wrap this up is I want to give you a couple of outside resources that you can go check out. Now we have what’s called a Balance gym it’s a product that does a lot of work with the eyes and the vestibular system in the body and the spine trying to make sure that you are building a better map for movement. When we look further afield you look at some of the research there is a system of exercises developed in New Zealand it’ll look very similar to some of the stuff that we’re talking about but it is called otago o-t-a-g-o otago exercises.You can Google. It you can download 60 70 page manuals for free because it was developed by governmental agency I believe in an effort to help aging populations decrease fall risk. It has a great kind of series of basic exercises working on strength working on stability working on the visual system the vestibular system and then also adding in some what’s called cognitive tasking as we move forward that is a fantastic starting point.
There are also a few other systems out there that focus on different agility patterns with the feet. Honestly, whenever you dig deeply into the research it probably isn’t super specific in terms of saying this is the best balance program because we can’t find that right now because it’s individualized. We do know is that you need to have a training program that challenges the eyes the challenges the inner ear the balance system that challenges your movement systems and your sensory systems and then it forces you to put it all together in real functional activities.
So this is my little public service announcement for first week of September with regards to fall prevention
I know this is a lot of talking but there are some actionable items in here so get on Google look at those different exercise programs check out our Balance gym and then come back and we’ll see you next week with some more information.