We tend to think of falls as affecting only older adults and causing primarily physical injuries. But neither is true. People of all ages fall, and the aftereffects can be harmful in a variety of ways.
Unexpected falls destabilize the nervous system. Even if you aren't badly hurt, these falls are scary. Our inner protective mechanisms become hypervigilant-our muscles become tense and we hold ourselves more rigidly. We also struggle with a lingering sense of unease and begin to mistrust our ability to safely do everyday activities.
After ruling out a concussion and fractures with a doctor's exam, patients should use ice to treat an injury for the first 48 hours, followed by heat and painkillers, if needed. Natural medicine can also help people avoid lasting problems from falls. Favorite approaches…
- Use natural remedies. Arnica is a well-known homeopathic remedy that is used topically for physical trauma. Arnica lotion, for example, can be applied to bruises or sprains several times a day until they are healed. Along with arnica, I recommend using homeopathic Aconite, a remedy that is excellent in treating the fright that follows sudden, violent accidents.
*Check with your doctor first if you have a chronic condition or take medication.
What Exercises Are Best for You?*
If you have arthritis…
If you have arthritis, certain exercises may be painful. That's why swimming and/or aerobic exercise such as “water walking" in a warm-water pool are good options. If you don't have access to a pool, choose non-weight-bearing exercise, such as a stationary bike, to minimize stress on your joints.
With arthritis, it's especially helpful to consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting a new exercise program-so your workout can be tailored to your specific type of arthritis.
Good rule of thumb: If an exercise hurts, don't do it.
If you have bone disease…
If you have bone disease, including osteoporosis or decreased bone density due to osteopenia: Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bone by exerting force against it. For this reason, walking is better than biking, for example, and swimming is usually the least likely to help.
Warning: Avoid exercises involving quick changes in direction, such as aerobic dance, which may increase fracture risk.
"Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program. If you have a chronic illness, it may be useful to consult a physical therapist for advice on exercise dos and don’ts for your particular situation.
Aconite is best taken within 48 hours of a fall. I typically recommend one dose (two pellets of Aconite 30C) taken under the tongue. If 24 hours after taking Aconite you remain anxious or scared about your fall, repeat the same dose once a day for up to a week.
- Try nervine herbs. Chamomile, valerian and hops are plant medicines that calm the nervous system and help the body recover from a fall by promoting rest and muscle relaxation. Take these herbs alone or in combination in tea or tincture form. Typical dose for a single herb or mixture: Drink 10 ounces of tea three times a day or take 60 drops of tincture in one ounce of water three times a day for up to two weeks.
- Get plenty of rest. Soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salts relaxes muscles and helps you get a good night's sleep. Until you have fully recovered from the fall, it also helps to take 150 mg of magnesium citrate the form most easily absorbed) twice daily. This mineral promotes relaxation.
- Consider bodywork. Soon after a fall, consider getting full-body massage or acupressure treatment several times. These therapies not only promote circulation and healing, but also help people regain trust in their bodies after a scary event.
Caution: If you hit your head, are bleeding significantly or suspect a fracture from a fall, get to a hospital emergency department. If you experience headache, vision changes, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting or a balance problem (even days after the fall), you may have a head injury and must seek immediate medical help.