Last month I attended a massage seminar on Balance and Postural Stability. The presenter was co-author of a research study that looked at the effects of massage on ankle flexibility and balance. He began his presentation by giving some statistics about falls.
Falls are a big problem for our healthcare system
- The annual cost of falls- According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 falls among older adults cost the US healthcare system more than $50 billion CDC Source
- Falls are the most common cause of Traumatic Brain Injury
- Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
The last statistic struck a personal chord with me. About 6 years ago my mother fell and suffered a serious head injury. While she is doing well, she is no longer independent. Ironically about 5 days before I attended this seminar, she fell again and shattered her patella. Luckily, she didn’t hit her head. But she had to have a complex surgery and has at least 6 months to a year of rehabilitation to endure.
Falls are preventable
The good news is that we are learning more and more about the mechanisms involved in balance. Reduced balance is a predictable part of the aging process, but it is NOT inevitable. There are many things that we can do to maintain good balance well into old age. The saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” certainly applies to balance. Practicing balance and postural stability exercises is something we should all be doing, regardless of our age. Searching Google for “exercises for balance” brings up numerous resources, including some great videos. One of my favorite resources for exercises geared for seniors is Silver Sneakers.
Massage for Fall Prevention
Massage is also a valuable tool in maintaining good balance. Part of the research presented in the seminar showed that there are 3 regions of the body that are referred to as “posture regulators” because of the density of sensory receptors located within them. They are the feet, the sacrum/pelvic region and the neck/cervical region. Massage to these regions helps to increase flexibility as well as stimulate nerve transmission to the muscles. Combining massage therapy with strengthening exercises can help to improve posture and balance, and thus reduce the likelihood of a fall.
Massage therapy will certainly be part of my mother’s rehabilitation protocol. A combination of massage with balance and postural stability exercises will be part of her Fall Prevention protocol.