Falls present a serious risk of injury in the older population. Falls also can lead to permanent lifestyle changes, such as hospitalization, long-term rehabilitation and the inability to function independently, which can cause further declines in health.
Within four weeks in the study, the researchers noted significant changes in balance and gait. They also recorded back extensor strength improvements and significant decrease in back pain. Mayo Clinic researchers present their findings in the July 2005 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
"Most studies of falls address the effects of sedatives, weakness of the lower extremity muscles and neuromuscular diseases," says Mehrsheed Sinaki, M.D., of Mayo Clinic's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. "What we wanted to see in this study was the effects of intervention to shift the center of gravity, and improve back strength and gait."
The Mayo Clinic researchers studied women in community-dwelling settings over age 60. Past studies have shown that community-dwelling people have a higher risk of falls and fractures than persons whose mobility is severely restricted. Twelve women in the study suffered from kyphosis, a progressive curvature of the spine that includes severe, progressive muscle weakness. Kyphosis causes a stooping posture. Their risk of falls and balance were studied and compared with a group of 13 women without this condition.
A fall is a biomechanical event, in that an external force -- gravity -- destabilizes the body's alignment of the torso over the legs. A fall occurs when the center of gravity of the person's trunk m