How to figure out your fall risk

Ashley Contreras | 09 February, 2021

            How to figure out your fall risk

As a physical therapist working in the specialty of neurology and vestibular rehabilitation I have screened hundreds of patients to assess their balance. Based on my initial observation along with their history I would choose which tests would accurately assess that person’s balance. This needs to be specific to the individual. Some tests will be too easy while others may be too difficult. Using the goldilocks rule to determine the “just right” test will most accurately determine their balance impairments. Here I will give you some quick tools to screen your own risk of falls.

The first question to ask yourself is “Have you fallen in the past 12 months?”. If the answer is yes then you automatically are deemed a fall risk for the near future. Anyone who has fallen in the past 12 months should be working daily to prevent future falls until you can say “No, I have not fallen in the past 12 months”.

The next step is to assess your medications. Many medications can cause dizziness or other side effects that can increase risk of falling. The more medications that you take the more likely this can occur. You can check medications on the CDC Fact Sheet - Medications Linked to Falls.

Other factors to look at are use of an assistive device such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair. Immobility and fear of falling can also increase fall risk.

Mobility Screen 

30 second sit to stand:

Now let us perform a series of movements. The first one is called the 30 second sit to stand. For this you will need a chair without armrests and a timer (you can use your phone or a kitchen timer with seconds on it). Start seated in the chair. Start the timer and rise to a full standing position then sit back down. Repeat this as many times as you can within 30 seconds. Jot down how many times you were able to perform a full stand. You can use the table matched with your age to see if you fall under the norm. If your sit to stand count is below the average norm then consider yourself at risk for falls.

 30 Second Sit to Stand Test 

Tandem stance for 10 seconds:

Another balance screen is seeing if you can stand for 10 seconds with 1 foot directly in front of the other. For this screen stand next to the kitchen sink or island in order to hold on if necessary. Place 1 foot in front of the other as if you are walking on a balance beam. Let go of any arm support and hold for 10 seconds. If you cannot hold for 10 seconds then you are considered at risk for falls.

*** If you are unable to hold for 10 seconds with 1 foot in front of the other then you are considered at risk for falls. ***

 Find a Healthcare Professional to help:

If you are looking to have your balance assessed work with a healthcare professional who takes the time to perform tests and discuss the findings with you. This knowledge is powerful in preventing falls for at risk individuals. Some of the tests that physical therapists use look at seated balance while others look at more difficult tasks of doing things while walking. Again, choosing the right test helps to find the deficits and what to work on to prevent falls.