Death rates are on the increase for seniors falling and experiencing balance issues, which can be helped with chiropractic care
One out of every four people aged 65 and older fall every year according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, one out of five of these seniors falling results in serious injury, with more than 800,000 seniors hospitalized annually due to hip fracture or a fall-related head injury.
Perhaps more alarming is that death rates from seniors who have fallen have increased 30% since 2007. The CDC adds that if this current trajectory continues, by the year 2030, seven seniors will succumb to these injuries every 60 minutes and die as a result of the fall.
Suggesting that seniors engage in balance exercises can help improve their stability while sitting, standing, and walking. Research also reveals that another effective option is regular chiropractic care.
Research on chiropractic and seniors falling
For example, a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association involved a small set of patients with low BBS scores. BBS stands for the Berg Balance Scale and is a 14-item measure or test used to assess an adult’s fall risk. Some of the actions tested in the BBS include the senior’s ability to stand unsupported, standing with their feet together, standing on one foot, and turning 360 degrees. The lower the senior’s score, the higher their risk of falling.
At the beginning of this study, seven of the patients involved had BBS scores of 45 or less. This indicated that they were in the higher risk category and, therefore, more likely to fall. After six to nine high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulative therapy sessions delivered over the course of three weeks, six of the seven patients increased their scores, taking them above 45. While this is a small sample size, the results are promising for seniors who struggle with balance.
A 2015 study took a slightly different approach on this topic. In this case, researchers were interested in learning how satisfied patients are with their health care remedy of choice when they have dizziness and balance disorders. Data was collected from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey, which included responses from 21,781 individuals, 11% of whom reported these types of issues. More than 35% of this demographic were 65 or older.
After reviewing the information collected, researchers learned that a majority of the patients (84.7%) sought care from a general physician. Only 4.2% attempted to resolve their dizziness or balance issues by seeing a chiropractor. That said, patients seeing a chiropractic professional had the highest perceptions of being helped whereas those seeing a physician had the lowest.
How chiropractic helps reduce falls
Chiropractic helps reduce seniors falling and fall risk, in part, by relieving issues with dizziness. For example, in the July-August 2009 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, researchers shared the results of a pilot study involving 34 older adults.
In this study, 13 of the participants were assigned to one group and treated with chiropractic for a total of eight weeks. Fifteen participants were assigned to a second group and received eight weeks of chiropractic followed by once-a-month visits for 10 months. The remaining six individuals were in the third group and received no treatment at all. At the one-month mark, the nine patients initially reporting that they experienced dizziness showed “significant improvement.” This reduction remained for the rest of the study.
Another piece of research involving 14 patients found similar results. In this case, six started the study with significant dizziness. After 16 chiropractic sessions provided over the course of eight weeks, one-half of these participants reported that their dizziness had completely resolved. This was indicated by citing a score of 0, which represented that they experienced no dizziness at all.
Assessing fall risk for senior patients
Although chiropractic has been found to be helpful for easing seniors falling and balance issues, what complicates matters a bit is that, in many cases, patients aren’t very open about this type of issue. According to the CDC, less than half of seniors who fall will tell their health care provider about the incident.
To get around this, it may be helpful to come out and ask your elderly patients if they’ve fallen since their last chiropractic visit. Even if they won’t reveal this information outright, they may offer it up if they are actually asked.
You can also do your own testing in-office to ascertain whether balance or stability is an issue. The Florida Physical Therapy Association offers a PDF of the Berg Functional Balance Scale that you can print off and use to better assess your patients with whom this may be a concern.
If you are able to identify that an elevated fall risk exists, you are able to approach your patient with this information and discuss a treatment plan that can help reduce this risk. Not only can this potentially help them avoid a serious injury, but when it comes to seniors falling it may just save their life.