Preventing a Fall If You Have Arthritis
Arthritis pain in your hips, knees or ankles can cause a fall. Here’s how to improve your strength, mobility and flexibility to reduce your risk.
One in three adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls are a leading cause of injury and mortality for this age group.
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Commonly, falls are caused by arthritis pain in the hips, knees or ankles, which leads to a painful walking pattern and reduced ability to complete daily activities and maintain balance. Don’t let a cycle of pain and inactivity render you immobile.
You can improve your strength, joint mobility and overall flexibility by starting an exercise program that includes strength training and balance activities. This will not only reduce your risk of falling, it will decrease your pain, reduce the disease process and overall disability and improve your quality of life.
1. Begin a lower body strengthening program. These exercises may include seated “marches,” leg extensions and rising up on your toes and heels without the support of the backrest in order to strengthen core muscles. These exercises should be performed three to four days a week and up to three times a day with minimal to no pain.
Additional work may include joining a pool exercise program or trying alternative exercises such as Pilates, yoga or tai chi.
2. Maintain flexibility. Flexibility will help to reduce fall risk. Some patients with knee or ankle arthritis walk with a bent knee or limited ankle motion, which can lead to shortened calf muscles and less mobility. Try a simple stretch to improve ankle flexibility:
3. Consider walking four to five days a week. You can also try doing low-impact aerobic activity for overall conditioning, balance and lower body strength. If you have fallen, feel at-risk for falling or use a cane or walker, be sure to consult with a physician or physical therapist before you begin walking or doing aerobic activity.
Falls are preventable and there is usually more than one factor that leads to a fall. A few more items to for your fall prevention checklist:
Remember, make your program fun or get together with friends and family to avoid the workout doldrums. Consider working with a physical therapist who specializes in treating arthritis and balance conditions in order to assess your individual needs and prescribe the best program for you.