I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up - FIT Human Performance

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up


May 6, 2012

Remember that line from the Lifeline Medical Alert commercial? Fact of the matter is, it was no laughing matter, but rather a very real problem for those who truly have lost both balance and strength.  My parents, and most people, at one point or another will fall.  No body is exempt from falling down, or exempt from losing their balance.  So, what is happening to us? 

We have talked about strength loss and muscle atrophy in previous Bob Report’s and touched on the balance factor as well.  But what is behind why we fall down or lose balance?  The most common answer, and the one you are probably thinking right now to yourself, ‘because those who fall down are old’ is partially true. 

Although there is some truth to that, there is more to the story. Balance has many participating factors as to why we get dizzy and fall down – known as orthostatic hypotension.  It’s not a disease, it’s just something to watch out for.  Orthostatic hypotension is when a person stands up too quickly from a lying position.  What happens when we lie down or stay in a low position, blood pools from the anterior (top side) to the posterior (bottom side) of the body due to gravity.  The blood vessels on the posterior side get larger to accommodate the pooling blood.  When we stand up all of a sudden, the posterior blood vessels need time to catch up and constrict in order to send blood up to the head.  The lack of blood to the head causes the dizziness or loss of balance.  And, at times is the reason behind a fall.  How many times have you found yourself grabbing for a railing, desk, chair, or doorway to avoid a fall?  Many!  Old…huh? 

Now let’s look at the real troublemaker in the story, strength.  Balance is not just about age, it definitely includes a function of practice.  Certainly you have heard the phrase “use it or lose it!”  Well that is a fact, if you do not practice the activities used when balancing, your body forgets how to do those maneuvers.  Actually, the brain pathways to the muscles that move the bones at just the right time to just the right place become dormant.  Now that is big chapter in the story of a dizzy spell… 

Other factors in falling down or balance are can also be conditions such as Vertigo. Sometimes called a head rush, it is a major symptom of a balance disorder. It is the sensation of spinning while the body is stationary with respect to the earth or surroundings. With the eyes shut, there can be a sensation that the body is in movement, called subjective vertigo; if the eyes are open, the surroundings will appear to move past the field of vision, this is called objective vertigo.

Balance can also be in jeopardy when one’s homeostasis is effected by the senses.  Example, close your eyes and stand on one foot.  Balance can also be in jeopardy from the ear, or cochlea?  Dr. Oz makes a note:

Dr. Mehmet Oz “We become more vulnerable to falls as we age because we lose balance as we age. How? The semicircular canals in our ears are filled with thick viscous fluid with tiny stones floating about. When you turn, these stones slowly move, and nerves in your ears sense this action. However, if the stones have become osteoporotic or the nerve impulses are erratic, the brain cannot rapidly process these clues to movement, and you feel dizzy.”

MANY are the reasons we fall and all are important.  BUT one of the reasons  mentioned is self-induced, practice.  At F.I.T. Human Performance we work with every client to overcome any balance issues and to build a stable core.  We will all deal with strength and balance issues over time so why not learn what to do today to curtail the potentially hazardous, expensive, embarrassing, and often dangerous action of falling or getting off balance?

In good health,


“I think exercise tests us in so many ways, our skills, our hearts, our ability to bounce back after setbacks. This is the inner beauty of spots and competition, and it can serve us all well as adult athletes.” – Peggy Fleming