It’s no secret that we’re living longer these days. But a larger population of older adults is bringing elder’s issues under the spotlight, and injury through falls is among the concerns. Mark Lin, a leading sports podiatrist in Sydney recently highlighted how research done into falls in older adults, shows taking care of our feet could make a difference.
A Firm Foundation: Reduction of Falls in Older Adults
Poor balance and weaknesses in feet and ankles can severely limit mobility, which is a major contributor to falls in older adults. Lin points to a literature review indicating that over 80 percent of older adults who worked with podiatrists felt that the intervention was beneficial.
“It’s not just the physical improvements,” he says. “Confidence also has a role to play. Fear is a big factor. When we don’t feel confident about our physical performance, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Falls and Foot Treatments
Although most people undergoing podiatry treatments feel confident that it’s working, researchers are more cautious in drawing conclusions: “The burden of proof for researchers is a heavy one. For example, if a study deals with foot exercises and falls, there must be no doubt that foot exercises rather than individual physical differences between subjects are responsible for any differences.” Lin explains.
“But even those who can’t produce evidence that podiatry works to reduce falls in older adults can’t produce evidence that it doesn’t. They’re calling for further research.”
However, the British Medical Journal has published a study indicating a “significant” reduction in the incidence of falls in older adults following intervention by podiatrists. The lead author, an NHS researcher, concludes that podiatry is a cost-effective intervention that can reduce the number of NHS patients requiring treatment for falls.
The study involved a multi-faceted approach which included advice on footwear choices, orthotics, foot and ankle exercises, and fall prevention education.
“People may find this confusing,” says Lin, “One researcher says that further study is needed while another says there’s a significant difference – but study design has a lot to do with the conclusions drawn.”
Foot Anomalies and Foot Pain
Foot problems affect one in three people over the age of 65, and once again, Lin has the third-party evidence to prove it. “Foot pain has long been considered a contributing factor when it comes to falls in older adults. When your feet hurt, you will favour them, and that means you develop a less steady gait. That, in turn, affects balance – and the logical consequence is that you’re more likely to fall.”
Although Lin is best known for his work as a sports podiatrist, he works with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Foot pain, it seems, is not limited to any specific segment of the population. “I work with kids too,” he explains. “They can have postural and gait problems that need to be corrected before they cause further problems. No matter who you are, if your feet hurt, you have a problem. Sore feet aren’t normal.”
About Mark Lin
The Footwork Clinic, situated in Chatswood on Sydney’s North Shore and Sydney CBD, is there to help should you have an injury or condition that you think would benefit from heat or ice treatment. They offer advanced manual therapies and a holistic and corrective care approach, with a proven track record of success in resolving acute and chronic conditions, and they will gladly offer advice to get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
For further information, visit the The Footwork Clinic – Leading Sports, Podiatry, Foot And Lower Limb Corrective Services to book online, or call Mark Lin or his friendly team on +61 2 9131 6891.
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The information contained in this guide is provided in good faith and is not intended to be nor is it to be used as a substitute for any sort of professional, medical or podiatric advice. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a podiatrist. Any users should always seek the advice of their podiatrist, or other qualified healthcare providers before commencing any treatment.
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