Falls are a surprisingly common and serious problem, especially for older adults—those 65 and older. An older adult (65+) falls every second of the day in the U.S. Also, every year, a staggering 3 million older people require emergency department treatment for fall injuries.

Falls can cause injuries that greatly impact your life, from minor scrapes and bruises to life-altering fractures or head injuries. If you are concerned about your risk of falling or if you've experienced a fall in the past, physical therapy can be an incredibly valuable resource. At Suarez Physical Therapy, we specialize in fall prevention and treatment in  Las Vegas. Call our office today for treatment

What Are Falls?

A fall is an unplanned, unexpected event where you lose balance and make contact with the floor or other lower surfaces. This excludes falls caused by injuries, being shoved, or medical conditions such as fainting or heart attack.

A near-fall is when you stumble or lose balance but manage to avoid hitting the ground.

What Can Happen After a Fall?

The possible consequences of falls range significantly in severity. Sometimes, you might walk away with a few scrapes, a bruise or two, and perhaps some sore muscles.

Other falls are far more severe. Bones can break; the hips, wrists, and spine are particularly vulnerable. Head injuries are a serious risk, from concussions to brain damage. In some cases, deep cuts can cause major blood loss.

The impacts of a fall could go beyond the immediate injury. A bad fall can instill a deep fear of falling again. This fear leads to hesitancy, reduced movement, and a loss of independence. For some people, especially the elderly, a severe fall can mean a change in living situations or the need for long-term care, altering their life trajectory significantly.

Factors That Can Increase Your Risk Of Falls

Falls hardly happen without a reason. Many risk factors can increase your chances of falling. Some are within your control, others are not. The most common risk factors include:

  • Age – As you grow older, you may experience changes in vision, balance, muscle strength, and reflexes. These can all make you more susceptible to falls.
  • Previous falls – If you have a history of falls, you are more likely to experience another one.
  • Particular medications – you could experience dizziness or lightheadedness when you take certain medications or a combination of them. These cause side effects that could affect your balance.
  • Health conditions – Conditions like Parkinson's disease, arthritis, stroke, heart disease, and vision problems can increase fall risk.
  • Hazards in Your Environment – Things like slippery floors, poor lighting, clutter, and loose rugs are all major contributors to falls.

How Falls are Diagnosed

Research scientists have not developed a test method to definitively diagnose ‘fall risk.’ However, if you are prone to falls, your therapist could do a comprehensive evaluation.

During the evaluation, you want to discuss your medical history with your therapist. Tell them about your past falls, chronic illnesses, and medications (both prescription and over-the-counter). Do not forget any symptoms like dizziness, balance problems, or vision changes.

Performing a Physical Exam

Your therapist will use the information you provide to decide which physical exam to perform. During a physical exam, the therapist will assess your strength and flexibility. They could check how strong your muscles are, how easily your joints move, and how flexible you are, especially in your legs, feet, and core strength.

They might also test your reflexes, looking for any unusual response that could signal a balance issue. Your physiotherapist will also check for any numbness or tingling, particularly in your feet and legs, as reduced sensation can make you less steady.

The physician could test your vision too. This is because even minor changes in your eyesight can increase the risk of tripping or misjudging distances. They will also likely measure your heart rate and blood pressure in different positions, such as lying, sitting, and standing. This helps them spot any sudden drops in blood pressure, which can make you feel faint when you change positions, leading to a fall.

Assessing Your Balance and Gait (Walking)

Your physiotherapist or physiotherapist will want to know how you move and maintain your balance. One common test is called the Timed Up-and-Go (TUG). You will start seated in a chair and be timed as you stand up, walk a short distance, turn around, walk back to the chair, and sit back down. The assessment gives your therapist an idea of your general mobility and speed.

When performing the TUG test, your therapist will carefully observe how you walk. They will check your stride length, your posture, and whether your steps seem uneven or unsteady.

30-Second Chair Stand Test

This exam gives your therapist an accurate view of your strength and balance. You begin the assessment by sitting on a chair with your arms crossed over your chest. When your physician says "go," try to stand and sit as many times as possible within 30 seconds.

A lower score may indicate that you are more likely to fall. The exact score indicating danger fluctuates with age. This test is only the beginning of determining how your provider can best assist you in remaining steady on your feet.

The 4-Stage Balance Test

This is an easy way to determine how good your balance is. You will attempt to stand in four distinct postures. Each posture becomes more difficult, with the goal of holding it for 10 seconds or more.

  1. Position 1. Begin with your feet side by side, nice and comfortable.
  2. Position 2. Slide one foot forward until the middle of it contacts the big toe of the other foot.
  3. Position 3. Place your front foot forward so your heel meets the toes of your rear foot.
  4. Position 4. Try standing on just one foot.

If you struggle to hold positions 2 or 3 for a full 10 seconds, or can't balance on one foot for at least 5 seconds, it could indicate a higher risk of falling.

Bone Density Scan

If your physiotherapist suspects falls might be linked to deeper medical issues, they won't stop at a physical exam and balance assessment. One important test they might order is a bone density scan.

This scan measures how strong and healthy your bones are. Weak or fragile bones, a condition called osteoporosis, can make a fall much more dangerous because your bones are more likely to break.

Eye Examination

Poor eyesight is another area of concern. A thorough eye exam, possibly with a specialist, goes beyond a simple vision test. They'll check for conditions that can seriously affect your depth perception and ability to react to your environment—things that are vital for staying upright and preventing falls.

The therapist might also need more information concerning other factors that can put you at risk of a fall. These include:

  • Reviewing your medications.
  • Checking your home environment. Your therapist will ask about things like loose rugs and slippery floors—anything that could trip you up.
  • Measuring your blood pressure.
  • Checking your vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels can weaken bones and muscles, causing falls.
  • Performing cognitive test checks.

There are many other fall assessment tools. If your provider suggests any tests not covered under this section, they will explain what to expect and why they are important.

How a Physical Therapist Can Help

Physical therapists are experts in movement, balance, strength, and exercise. They help patients prevent falls and recover after a fall. Different treatment plans your physical therapist could design for you could include:

Balance Training

Balance training is a workout for your body's ability to stay upright. This training is aimed at preventing falls and is integral to physical therapy.

For starters, your therapist might work on static balance. This means holding different positions—standing on one leg, keeping your feet close together, or carefully shifting your weight while standing still. These challenges help retrain your body's sense of its own position.

Dynamic balance exercises are about moving with control. You might practice walking heel-to-toe, taking sideways or backward steps, or turning as you walk. These movements mimic real-life situations where balance is needed.

A good program will not neglect strength training. Strong legs, ankles, and core muscles are the foundation of good balance. These involve exercises like squats, calf raises, or using resistance bands to work those important muscle groups.

Balance training can also borrow movements from practices like Tai Chi or yoga. These involve slow, controlled movements that gently challenge your coordination and stability.

If your balance trouble stems from issues with how your nerves sense your body's position, a therapist might work on sensory integration training. These exercises help your brain and body communicate better, improving how you interpret those signals from your feet and legs.

Walking And Moving

If the fear of falling makes even simple movements feel risky, physical therapy can give you back confidence. During gait training, your therapist will look at your posture, how long your steps are, the way your feet hit the ground, and every other aspect of your walking pattern. After finding out the issues, your therapist will give you specific techniques to make your walk safer and more stable.

Physical therapy involves practicing sitting and standing from your chair and bed without feeling wobbly, navigating stairs with ease, and even picking up things off the floor without losing your balance. You might work on carrying items while walking, ensuring you stay steady even when your hands are not free.

The real world is full of obstacles. Therefore, in your physical therapy sessions, you could practice navigating around cones or small steps. The goal is to help you move confidently over uneven surfaces and around potential hazards you could encounter at home or out and about.

Multitasking Safely

Falls often happen in the hustle and bustle of life—when your hands are carrying groceries, your mind is on your to-do list, and you're trying to walk at the same time. Physical therapists understand this, and they can help you build the ability to multitask without compromising your safety.

One approach is what's called cognitive-motor exercises. Here, you walk while simultaneously counting backward from 100 or having a conversation with your therapist. It sounds difficult, but it teaches your brain to handle both physical and mental demands together, which is what real life is all about.

Your therapist might also introduce distractions or ask you to follow multiple instructions while you're practicing simple movements or navigating obstacles. This builds adaptability, so if you get a phone call while you're carrying a laundry basket,  your balance won't take a hit.

Physical therapists sometimes incorporate mindfulness techniques. These simple exercises help you focus on your body and its movements, even when your mind is busy. This awareness creates a sense of being grounded, making you less likely to stumble when things feel a bit chaotic.

Strength Training

Strong muscles provide support and stability, which significantly reduce your risk of falling. Physical therapy strength training focuses on key areas for fall prevention, like:

  • Core Strength – Your core muscles, particularly the abs, back, and hips, are the foundation of strong, stable movement. Exercises might include planks, side-bends, pelvic tilts, or exercises on a stability ball.
  • Legs and Ankles – Strong legs help with balance and safe walking. Exercises may include squats, calf raises, lunges, and stepping exercises. Resistance bands can often be used to add challenge.
  • Weight-Bearing Exercise – Activities like walking, stair climbing, and even dancing help maintain bone density, which is essential for strong bones that resist fractures in the event of a fall.

Your physical therapist will design a program appropriate for your fitness level. They will teach you proper form and safe ways to gradually increase resistance for better results.

Pain Management

When speaking of fall risk, chronic pain could make you stiff, hesitant, and more unsteady. The fear of making the pain worse can make you avoid movement altogether.

Sometimes the best pain medicine is movement. Your physical therapist will create an exercise program specifically tailored to your pain limitations. The focus will be on gently and gradually increasing your strength and mobility. This often works to reduce pain levels and improve your overall well-being.

Your therapist might also use manual therapy techniques like massage, joint mobilization, and trigger point release. These can provide moments of pain relief, making it easier to get through your exercises with less discomfort.

Sometimes, your therapist may use things like heat, cold packs, or ultrasound to help manage pain before, during, or after your session.


Apart from exercise, you could receive education on various aspects like what you wear, home safety, devices you could use, and eye care.

Your physiotherapist can give you advice about the safest footwear for your needs. They'll help you find shoes that offer good support, reduce slipping risks, and fit properly.

Sometimes an assistive device, like a cane or a walker, is the right tool to keep you steady. Your therapist will assess whether a device would help. More importantly, they'll teach you how to use it correctly and confidently, so it truly helps prevent falls.

Your therapist can help you make your home as fall-proof as possible. This includes spotting things like wobbly rugs, clutter that could trip you up, or dimly lit areas. They might even suggest a home safety evaluation for in-depth, personalized advice.

While vital for managing health conditions, some medications can have side effects that make you dizzy or unsteady. Your therapist might encourage you to have a medication review with your physiotherapist to see if anything could be adjusted for greater safety.

Fear Management

The fear of falling can trap you in a cycle where the less you move, the weaker and more unsteady you become. The loop exacerbates the fear. To break the cycle, your physiotherapist will begin with gradual exposure.

Your program will involve balance and movement challenges, but always in a safe and controlled environment. Small victories build confidence, slowly replacing fear with a 'can-do' attitude.

Mindfulness techniques can help you manage the fear when it does arise. Your therapist might teach you simple breathing exercises or ways to focus on your body. These tools keep you present and calm, even when things feel wobbly.

Your therapist will explain how falls happen and how the exercises you're doing are making you stronger and less likely to fall. This understanding lessens anxiety and helps you trust the process.

Community Programs

Physical therapists often run community programs or can point you in the right direction. Group exercise classes provide a supportive environment where everyone shares similar concerns about balance and falls. There's a sense of camaraderie and shared motivation that can boost your commitment. Plus, exercising with others reduces the isolation that often comes with a fear of falling.

Different programs focus on different things. Some might specialize in Tai Chi for balance, while others focus on general strength and fitness. Many community programs also include educational elements like talks on fall prevention, safe medication use, or other related topics.

Your physical therapist is your best guide to finding the right fall prevention program in your area. They'll know the details and can help you choose one that's the best fit for your needs and goals.

The Kind of Physical Therapist You Need

Finding the right physiotherapist is key to effective fall prevention. Not every therapist focuses on this area. Find a therapist who has worked extensively with older adults or people with balance problems. Ideally, they understand the unique challenges you face and can tailor their approach accordingly.

Look for therapists with the GCS (Geriatric Certified Specialist) or NCS (Neurologic Certified Specialist) credentials. These indicate specialized knowledge relevant to fall prevention. inquire directly about how they assess fall risk, the kinds of exercises they use, and their overall philosophy on fall prevention.

Find a Las Vegas Physical Therapist Near Me

Falls can be scary, but taking action to improve your balance, strength, and safety can make a huge difference in your quality of life and independence. If you are concerned about your risk of falling, talk to us at the Suarez Physical Therapy. Our experienced physical therapists in Las Vegas specialize in fall prevention and treatment, and we can help you regain confidence and stay on your feet. Call us today at 702-368-6778 to schedule your consultation.