Fall Safely
Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.—Jose N. Harris

We all fall. It may be over a curb, a toy, or our own two feet. It may be off a bike, over a root, or off a horse. It may be while we are walking, sitting, or just standing. It may be from a gait or balance disorder or the effects of medication. Sometimes we have a warning and time to react, and sometimes we don’t.

Preventing Falls

While we cannot always predict when we are about to fall, there are some precautions you can take to reduce your chance of falling. You’ll also want to think about how to reduce injuries if you do fall. Here are some tips to help prevent or reduce the number of falls and injuries, especially for individuals with gait or balance disorders and seizure side effects.

  • Wear proper footwear
    • Wear shoes with good stability and tread or choose slip-resistant soles
    • Avoid open-toed shoes and high heels that could catch on things
  • Notice your surroundings
    • Pay attention to where you’re walking and what is around you
    • Be aware of where you place your feet
    • Don’t walk in the street or too close to the street if you have seizures. Stick on the inside of a sidewalk if you can.
  • Be careful on train and subway platforms
    • Don’t stand too close to the tracks so you don’t fall into dangerous areas
    • Travel with a buddy when you can
  • Practice proper equipment safety
    • Take precautions when you are using tools or equipment that may put you at risk of falling (ladders, heavy equipment, etc.)
  • Create safe settings
    • Do a home safety check; for example, can you get rid of tripping hazards at home, work, and your other environments?
    • Use non-slip rugs on slick surfaces
    • Close drawers
    • Keep floors clear of clutter
    • Enhance lighting if needed
  • Improve your fitness
    • Regularly engage in strength and balance exercise to reduce your risk of falling and injuries
    • Work specifically to strengthen your legs and your core muscles
    • If you have any weakness or balance problems from your epilepsy, medicines, or other problems, talk to a physical therapist. You may need a cane or other aid to limit falls.  
  • Be aware of side effects of medication you’re taking
    • Some medications may cause dizziness, drowsiness, or balance problems—any of these can result in falls
    • Speak to your doctor or nurse if you’re worried about falling

Limiting the Effects of Falling

If you can practice falling under safe conditions (on a soft carpet, mat, or bed; slowly; and with someone to support you), you can learn to react safely. Then when a real fall happens, you’ll have the muscle memory of how to tuck and move your body to lessen injury.

Practice these ways to reduce injury when you’re falling. Check with your health care provider before doing any new exercises or activity.

  • Protect your head
    • Tuck your chin and cover your head with your arms
    • If you’re falling face first, turn your head to the side
    • If you are taking anti-coagulants or blood thinners and hit your head, immediately contact your doctor or emergency team as this may result in bleeding in the head
  • Stay loose
    • Avoid tensing up and just move with the fall
    • Breathe out as you fall to help your body relax
    • Tensing up can make the impact of the fall more severe or hurt more
  • Fall to the side
    • As you fall, try to turn to one side to prevent falling directly backward or forward
    • Falling face first or back first can result in higher chances of injury to the head, face, and spine
  • Keep your arms and legs bent
    • Bend arms and knees as you reach to catch yourself
    • You may be tempted to reach out with straight arms to catch your fall, but don’t do this! You could hurt your wrists, elbows, and shoulders this way. Bending your knees as you fall, helps to lessen the impact of the fall.
  • Roll out
    • If possible, roll out of the fall in the direction you’re falling
    • This will send the energy from the fall into the roll rather than your feeling the brunt of the impact.

Here’s an exercise to practice rolling out

  1. Start in a low squat
  2. Place your palms on the floor in front of you
  3. Push through your feet to move your weight forward
  4. Tuck your chin and round your back
  5. As your hips and feet come over your head, try to roll to one shoulder
  6. Keep your momentum going forward to roll onto your back and then to your feet

A video demonstrating this exercise is posted online.

Unfortunately, your chances of falling at some time in your life are likely. However, having the tools to keep yourself as safe as possible is critical to reducing the risk of injury.

Authored By: 
Jenny LaBaw
Authored Date: 
03/2018
Reviewed By: 
Patricia O. Shafer RN, MN and Katherine Noe MD, PhD
on: 
Saturday, March 10, 2018