Why do we fall?
A few weeks back, I was messing about during a walk with my family on some uneven ground and I turned my ankle and hit the ground. Thankfully I’ve done enough of this work now that my tissues generally respond with a high level of elasticity so all I was left with was a bruised ego.
What set me thinking however, was my Partner being super supportive (ie making fun of me) and telling me I’d ‘had a fall’.
What change in conditions or age is there then that causes us to transition from ‘falling over’, which insinuates we bounce and get back up perhaps with a minor bruise, to ‘having a fall’; usually denoting broken bones and a smashed up face? It was time to mooch into the IM lab and have a proper look. This is what came up:
Firstly, education. Did you know that if you roll your foot over on its side whilst weight bearing through it, there is a circuit breaker in your upper thigh that will cause the leg to collapse, thus ‘saving’ the ankle joint from serious damage that could occur if the whole body weight continued through that gravity line?
I found it interesting that having this knowledge through my training meant that as my leg went out from underneath me and I landed on the ground, I didn’t tense as much AND, more importantly, I wasn’t as shocked. I instinctively knew that my body was designed to do that. It’s a built in think.
It’s an interesting fact that our thinky brain (cognitive reflex) is actually pretty slow compared to other reactive processes in the body. Practicing balancing and foot awareness coupled with a little education on how your body works, reminds your body and brain how to react appropriately when challenged by large variations in movement – like falling over. It’s all built in at embryo stage, we’ve just forgotten over time.
“What set me thinking however, was my Partner being super supportive (ie making fun with me) and telling me I’d ‘had a fall’…at what age do we stop falling over and start having falls?”
Secondly, and I think most importantly is proprioceptive awareness. The ability to hear the messages coming back from your body about where it is in space.
With the feet incased in shoes from an early age, we are disconnected from the ground and the feet are completely inhibited from doing their most important role, providing a strong, stable, flexible and dextrous foundation for our body. This high level of disconnect very soon (usually our 30’s onwards) leaves us with every issue from flat feet to high insteps, locked knees, tight hips and bad backs. Don’t even get me started on the shoulders/ neck!
The ability to feel the ground underneath our feet through our shoes and then work to significantly improve our proprioception reduces our risk of falling by 60%.
Working on the specific tissues in the ankles and the wrists called retinaculum ensuring they’re hydrated, strong and awake gives us at least a sporting chance of being able to fall without serious injury as well as educating ourselves on the basics of our bodies in movement.
THE GOOD NEWS: IT’S NOT TOO LATE!
I started working with a lovely lady who was 81 about 4 years ago who had been referred to me by her Chiropractor for foot work. Presenting me with what I can only describe as bricks for feet, she suffered with chilblains, varicose veins and cellulitis. She had had one hip replaced and was on the waiting list for the other. We rolled up OUR sleeves and got started. I say our sleeves, because as much as I can provide you the tools, the work is ultimately yours and this lady got stuck in with great enthusiasm. In four years, she has feet that are no longer cold and legs without fluid flow problems since the tissues now move properly. She is more confident with her feet and feels more stable and steady. And she never did get that other hop replaced, but that’s another post..