Preventing falls

I feel like I should know the answer. After all, as a social worker for older people, I face this daily. Yet, I've hit a brick wall. I walk with one crutch but the pressure I'm putting on that is exacerbating my neck issues and aggravating my nerve compression. The best option would be to return to two crutches to evenly spread the weight. Using two is such a faff though and makes carrying things difficult. It also makes me a lot less able to do things independently e.g. hold a basket in a shop. I have been trialing ditching the crutch altogether but I've been falling over again. Clearly, something is not working. I've tried walking sticks but that's even worse. Help please, am I missing something that might be better?

20 Replies

  • I just went back to physiotherapist last week with the same problem. She gave me two elbow high crutches, they don't drop as much, keep me straighter this helping my back etc but still have the carrying issues. I resorted to a backpack ! X

  • Thanks, will consider this. I have debated a backpack as my work bag plus laptop are causing shoulder grief but my physio advised against this as she said swinging the bag onto your back can cause more issues. I do need a better bag though, it makes me lopsided.

  • At one stage when I was using one for 'balance' outside I realised that without thinking I was putting much more pressure on it than necessary affecting other joints and my posture - I think it is easy to get into bad habits when using crutches. Would a physio's opinion be useful? Farm

  • I have the same problems with crutches - one stresses my back too much; two makes it impossible to carry anything. I've now decided that the best options for me are having a wheelchair plus two crutches. I don't usually need anything in the house though.

  • Yep I'm ok in the house. I 'cruise' by holding on to furniture like a baby does. I'm not bad enough for a wheelchair but am considering a mobility scooter for longer distances.

  • I have got a scooter and was really useful at the time (since had TKR and meds that have been working I don't need at the moment). Do go to a local shopping mobility centre and specialist showroom to try different ones out first as there are lots of options and depends where you want to use it and whether you need to load into a vehicle and different seat types and sitting positions (I could not sit at 90 degrees) and there were only 2 mid sized that you could stretch your legs out. Farm

  • I think it might help to be assessed by an OT to work out why you are falling and what's the best approach. Because there's a huge difference depending on what needs to be shored up, ie is it feet that are the problem or weight bearing on your spine or balance, etc etc. For some you could do better with a trundle when you're out (not sure what the proper name is but a three wheeled triangular thing that goes before you, and carries your shopping too), for others it could help to work on your feet for stability and core strength to help your spine keep you upright. Crutches and walking sticks are hard work and need a lot of upper body strength if you're not to put the wrong pressure on other bits of you. So even if crutches are the best solution for you they might also be able to provide targeted exercises to help make sure you don't upset your neck.

    I know I'm an endless bore about exercise, but it's remarkable what tiny things can achieve. After months of trying to increase a fraction a week, I can now stand on one leg for about a minute while I brush my teeth. Which may not sound hugely impressive, but has so helped my balance and the strength in my ankles.

  • Thank you, helix. My NY resolution is to move more. I have a fitbit and I am trying to increase my steps. I do think I need a physio review to have a look at my walking. My ankle ligaments are weak and will just turn over but the surgery to repair them is far too traumatic and ultimately, may not be beneficial.

  • I use a walking stick more for balance than anything else,but i can't walk far.So i use a scooter,i hate that i have to,but it is a marvelous machine which gives me independence even when i amout with hubby. I have two one for going in the car when i am out with hubby and and a big one for when i want to go out on my own hence i get some independence. If you look online you might pick up a second hand one as new they are expensive. My big one is secondhand.xxxxxx

  • Hi Sylvi, thanks for reply. I have used a scooter but only hired. It may need to be a long term plan. I shall see how it goes.

  • I used a knee walker both a 4 wheeler and a three wheeler instead of crutches. The 4 wheeler is very stabile and useful in the house especially with a bake attached. The issue when leaving the house is loading and unloading. If u have help, no problem. There is also a device that straps to your knee and let's u walk unassisted and eliminates the problem of loading and unloading the knee walker.

  • Ohh that sounds interesting. Not heard of that device. I will look into it, thanks. :)

  • I am no expert by any means. The walkers do seem to even things out and not as much pressure on wrists and shoulders.

    I am having back and knee problems at the moment. We have a dog with spondylitis and she has a dog pram. I find that a great help pushing on the flat, and I do nof feel as self conscious as using a stick.

    I will have to loan out Tottie in her pram :) she will be in good hands at been cared for with hers meds etc with all you lovely people.

  • At 27, I'm a bit anxious about resorting to a walker but we shall see. My dog has arthritis too, although he's still toddling along. If he gets worse, a dog pram may very well be in his future. How old is Tottie?

  • I had to spend a few months on sticks of one sort or another after my hip replacement last year, and still use one occasionally. You're right that using two is much more of a nuisance than one. BUT if you're struggling, it might be a 'stitch in time saves 9'-type situation, where a few weeks using 2 sticks might save you from months longer needing one...

    Have you tried walking sticks with ergonomic handles? They're much easier on your hands than standard crutches, I find. Also, there are a few 'crutch caddies' or 'crutch pods' - sort of drink holders that clip onto a crutch or walking stick - that allow you to carry bottles and some thermos flasks. Wrist straps attached to your sticks (you can buy these too) allow you to let go of one or both temporarily without dropping them - for example to open a door or pick something up. Lots of people use bum bags/fanny packs or shoulder bags or little rucksacks...

    The other thing to consider is what is actually causing your falls. You may well already know this since you are a social worker yourself, but falls have many different causes, and recent research shows that many of them are preventable if the right cause is identified and addressed, rather than treating them all as if they're caused by diminishing mobility, and inevitable. For instance:

    - Physio can help if falls are caused by weak muscles;

    - New meds or balance training can help if they're related to balance problems;

    - New glasses can help if they're related to problems with eyesight, judging distance, etc.

    - A surprising number of falls are caused by footwear problems; new secure shoes or orthotics can help, and may even reduce the need for walking sticks...

    Good luck with it. I hope you can find a solution that works for you, because fear of falling can be pretty disabling!

  • Thank you, flow.

    I have an issue with blood pressure and heart rate regulation which makes me very dizzy when I go to stand, so that is certainly playing a role. I am weak in my lower legs. I know I should focus my exercises a bit more.

    I do have the ergonomic handles which are a lifesaver and I have excellent shoes. My orthotics need a review and I am waiting to see seen.

  • Hi, sorry to hear your struggles. I think an OT assessment is needed and also when I was using crutches I invested in a backpack so I could do my carrying independently 💪🏼🎒 actually have a hospital OT assessment and a community one in your home. As you know fellow social worker, OT can also do an assessment out and about with you.

    Hope you get some practical solutions for your falls and crutches use

    T xx

  • Thanks, Terri. I've been neglecting myself a bit, think I need to focus on some important things. I am friendly with an OT in my team, so I'll unofficially have a chat.

    :) x

  • It's easily done when you feel pain etc but you'll feel so much better for some self care xxxxxxxx

  • Sounds like you have got some good advise crashdoll.

    I can understand you feeling apprehensive of using a walker at your age.

    Tottie is 13 1/2 . I think a dog pram may be good for both you and your dog. It also saves carrying bags. Hope you get sorted out soon and take care of yourself.

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